Garden of Light at the Aga Khan Centre in King's Cross

London, UK
The Garden of Light at the Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross is a contemporary Islamic roof garden that uses the traditions of poetry and pattern to summon images of gardens from other places and times. A system of screens and panels perform double duty providing protection from wind exposure while immersing visitors in an environment dominated by traditional Islamic patterns. Drawing from the structural rhythms of the building, the design incorporates the adjacent interior areas to create a space that is harmonious and beautiful when viewed from the interior hallway or anteroom. The limestone terrace provides a placid canvas for moving shadows cast by the geometric patterns of the glossy white screens which are made of ultra-high performance concrete. The design of the screens recalls intricate stone carving and tile traditions of Spain and the Maghreb. Poetry, carved into white marble and placed at eye level, describes characteristics and experiential beauty of garden landscapes. A clean line along the top of the screen and adjacent architectural elements frame the sky bringing the changing colors and mood of the sky into the garden itself.
A small fountain at the center of the space draws the eye and fills the garden with the calming sounds of trickling water, helping to further separate the visitor experience from the city noise beyond. Polished limestone irrigation channels recall an element common in the tradition of Islamic gardens. In keeping with the simple design of the courtyard, only deciduous magnolia (Magnolia loebneri ‘Merrill’) were used. They were chosen for their white blooms in spring, echoing the white of the garden’s hardscape.