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Ismaili project on Wynford Drive breaks ground May 28 - 2010-05-26

Wednesday, 2010, May 26

A $300 million Ismaili project on Wynford Drive will get underway with a ground breaking Friday, May 28.

The Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, will be on hand for the ceremony.

Slated for completion in 2013, the 17-acre development in the Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue area will be made up of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and a park.

The Ismaili Centre Toronto will include a place for prayer, a library, youth lounge and public spaces for cultural activities.

Indian architect Charles Correa will create the design concept, which will mark his first Canadian commission.

The Ismaili Centre Toronto is the second such site in Canada, behind the site built in Burnaby, British Columbia in 1985.

Other Ismaili centres have been built in London, Lisbon, Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Dushanbe.

The Aga Khan Museum, in the works since 2002, will be the first of its kind in the western world.

The 10,000-square-metre structure, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, will house collections of Ismaili art, including ceramics, metal work and paintings covering a 1,000-year period of Islamic history.

The park, designed by Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic, will be open to the public and feature a traditional Islamic garden and will surround the centre and museum.

"It's an exciting project," said Amyn Sayani, a volunteer with the Ismaili Council for Canada. "His Highness (the Aga Khan) talked about how it isn't really a clash of civilizations, but a clash of ignorance between the Islamic and western worlds. We want to allow dialogue between people of different cultures and faiths. The aim is to bring people together in understanding."

Sayani said Toronto was chosen for the development because the city is internationally recognized for its diversity.

"Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in North America," he said. "It's very accepting of new ideas."

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