Edmonton, 7 April 2017 — Details of an Islamic garden gifted by Mawlana Hazar Imam to the University of Alberta were revealed today at a special ceremony.
The event also included the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University.
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When it opens in 2018, the spectacular new Aga Khan Garden, Alberta will feature “stepped terraces that change with the seasons, geometric water features that stream into wetlands and a spectacular orchard of local plants,” according to a jointly issued press release from the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University. It will occupy 4.8 hectares within the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, offering opportunities for research and learning.
“On the 150th anniversary of Canada, it is appropriate that we are creating together a Mughal-style garden, which echoes the great contributions that Muslims have made to world heritage,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam in a written statement. The gift celebrates both Canada’s sesquicentennial and Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee, which commences on 11 July 2017 and marks 60 years since he inherited the Ismaili Imamat.
“The Mughals built the Taj Mahal and Humayun's Tomb and the gardens around them, so the university's embrace of this project is an inherently pluralistic act,” Hazar Imam’s statement continues. “The creation of this garden therefore both deepens an existing partnership and illustrates the pluralistic nature of this country. Measures like this should be encouraged, both here and abroad.”
The project’s development has been led by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University. Award-winning firm Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was commissioned in 2010 to design the garden.
“Our diversity makes us stronger,” said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who was present and expressed her deep gratitude for the gift on behalf of all Albertans. “This garden will serve as a living reminder of the diverse heritage of our open and welcoming province, which is a big part of what makes Alberta such a great place to live.”
The ceremony was also attended by University of Alberta President David Turpin and Aga Khan University President Firoz Rasul. Together they signed a new memorandum of understanding that builds on previous agreements between the institutions signed in 2006 and 2009. The Aga Khan Garden honours the longstanding partnership between the two institutions, which has resulted in collaborations in teaching and training missions, postgraduate studies and internships in a variety of fields.
The gift of an Islamic garden was first announced by Mawlana Hazar Imam during his address at a University of Alberta convocation in June 2009. The Aga Khan Garden joins the Aga Khan Park in Toronto, becoming Mawlana Hazar Imam’s second landscape project in North America and the 11th in the world to be built by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
When it is completed, Edmonton will join cities like Bamako, Cairo, Delhi, Kabul, and Toronto that each host parks and gardens that were conceived or rehabilitated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture as catalysts for positive economic, social and cultural change.