The design of the Museum is inspired by a vision statement of “Light” by His Highness the Aga Khan. The notion of “Light” has been an inspiration for numerous human faiths and decades of history are referred to as the enlightenment. The Aga Khan had hoped that the building and the spaces around it will be seen as a celebration of light and the mysteries of light that nature and the human soul illustrate at every moment of our lives. The concept is particularly validated in Islamic texts and sciences.
The rectilinear building is oriented forty-five degrees to solar north where all its sides are exposed to the sun. The form has been chiseled to create a concaved angular profile that is also a natural expression of the two level building. Clad in sandblasted white Brazilian granite, the surfaces of the building are set in motion in a constant interplay with the sun in light and deep shadows. The effect is similar to a sun dial.
The courtyard is intended as a permanent peaceful sanctuary creating its own internal world secluded from the outside environment. Its glass walls are imprinted with a double layered pattern in line and void to create a three dimensional effect recalling the traditional Islamic Jali screens. The light from the courtyard constantly cast moving patterned shadows on the soffits, walls and floor of the grand cloister animating the interior spaces. Up above on the second level, four large openings overlook the public spaces through a cast zinc screen in the form of a contemporary Musharabiya, an Islamic bay window. Within the galleries, large aluminum paneled skylights perforated with small hexagonal openings emit soft natural light into the exhibition areas.
The Museum will live on to represent the living traditions of Muslim societies and to learn about the artistic and cultural practices across Islam and its civilizations, past and present. The Buildings, the Gardens and Park, reflect the Aga Khan’s long standing relationship with Canada and his appreciation for the country’s commitment to pluralism and cultural diversity.
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Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali