Aga Khan Garden, Alberta

Currently under construction, a spectacular new garden is blooming at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, near Edmonton.

The Aga Khan Garden was made possible by His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community. Our firm was asked by the Aga Khan to study examples of classic Mughal Islamic gardens while developing a design that also incorporated the plants and topography of Northern Alberta. 
 
With secluded forest paths, wide stepped terraces that change with the seasons, geometric water features that stream into wetlands, and a spectacular orchard of local trees, the 10-acre Aga Khan Garden will be situated around the existing Calla Pond at the heart of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. NBW created a garden with contemporary form and expression: innovative and contextual, yet grounded in the enduring principles of geometric structure and spatial and textural experience. 
 
To ensure that the resulting designs were respectful of their historical precedents, NBW engaged in an immersive study of traditional Islamic patternmaking through workshops, travel, and observation. This research was recently recognized with an ASLA Honor Award. 
 
The design responds to the local ecologies in the tradition of the Islamic environmental ethic and envisions the formal structure of the Islamic Garden as a framework through which the magnificent and extreme seasonal fluctuations experienced within the Albertan landscape are legible. The rhythm of the garden plantings, their color and form, and the light and wind of the changing seasons will register against the fundamental forms of plinth, path, pavilion, lawn, and orchard. The design that is now being implemented will create a place where local and global communities can engage with a garden that brings them closer to nature and while promoting cultural understanding.
 
Collaborators: Dialog Design, ISL Engineering and Land Services, CMS Collaborative Inc., Ion Irrigation Management, Inc., FTL Design Engineering Studio
  • NBW's research into traditional Islamic patternmaking has been recognized with an VA ASLA Honor Award. For projects of distinct cultural significance, research is critical to establishing a design process that honors history and traditions. Here the researcher is in the ancient madrasas of Fez, Morocco as part of an immersive Islamic Pattern course.

  • Research on traditional numerology and its application helped generate a rationale to the organization and design of patterns in the garden details.