'Absolutely unique' Toronto park opens with visit from Aga Khan
Published Monday, May 25, 2015 9:01AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 25, 2015 4:28PM EDT
The Aga Khan joined Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for the opening of a new garden retreat in the heart of Toronto.
The 6.8 hectare park is located just off the Don Valley Parkway, a major municipal expressway. The park was designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic, and was inspired by traditional Persian and Mughal gardens.
"What we have here is an absolutely unique park here in Toronto," Aga Khan Museum Director Henry Kim told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
It features more than 1,200 mature trees and 12,000 shrubs chosen for their colours and ability to withstand the Canadian climate. Djurovic also chose plants known to attract birds and butterflies, including Chinese wisteria and forsythia bushes.
"To come to the park is not just about seeing a beautifully landscaped place with plants and trees, it's also to experience all of the senses," Kim said.
Djurovic wanted visitors to focus on the sights of the plants and buildings, but also listen to the crunch of gravel underfoot and take in the smells of flowering trees, Kim said.
It is open to the public for free, but those wishing to visit the museum must buy tickets.
The garden retreat is the third and final part of a complex named after the Aga Khan, a title that has been used by the imam of the Nizari sect of Ismaili Muslims since the 1800s. The current leader, Prince Shah Karim Al Husseini, is the 49th imam of the religious group, and has held the position since 1957.
The park connects the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre.
"When his highness started planning the site… he had in mind creating one space, a cultural campus that encompasses art, spirit and nature all in one place," Kim said.
The park was officially opened by the Aga Khan and the Ontario premier on Monday afternoon at 3:30 p.m..
Kim said the religious leader chose Toronto as the home for the complex because of his "very close, long-standing relationship" with Canada.
"This long-term relationship (has) really culminated in these capital projects," he said.
"These could have been built almost anywhere and yet his highness chose Canada, and Toronto in particular."