Backgrounder – Spectacular new Aga Khan Garden, Alberta opens June 29, 2018

Quick Facts: Aga Khan Garden, Alberta

  • Name of the garden was chosen by the University of Alberta
  • Designed by award-winning Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects out of Virginia, USA
  • “Islamic gardens” differ greatly depending on where and when they were created. The architects of the Aga Khan Garden were inspired by common elements of geometric ordering, the use of water, the activation of all senses, and the traditional use of gardens to support food production
  • Water, an important element of traditional garden design in Islamic landscapes, is highlighted in 12 water features and fountains, celebrating water in different forms: flowing, falling, reflecting and producing sound
  • Over 25,000 trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and wetland plants
  • Fruit orchards (bustan) contain plum, cherry, apple, pear and one apricot tree
  • Rose garden contains a fountain inspired by the wild rose floral symbol of Alberta
  • Wetland seed banks – sunken garden beds with varying water levels designed for potential use in wetland plant research
  • Intricate geometric patterning, widely used in traditional Islamic design, is used throughout the garden, on paving stones and in screen walls
  • Designed and built to last for centuries
  • Approx. 876 steel piles (end-to-end over 8.1 km) support the structure of the garden
  • The majority of stone for pavers (granite) and walls (limestone) comes from Quebec and Ontario – all the stone in the garden that touches the earth is Canadian-quarried
  • Portuguese limestone used in terrace pillars was selected for its light colour
  • 8750 pieces of granite pavers used, with a variety of finishes to create geometric patterning
  • Woodland reflecting pond created from nearly 30,000 kg of granite, fabricated in five joined pieces
  • Approximately 665,000 kg of granite overall for the project
  • Limestone used in walls comes from Ontario, totaling 200,000 kg

For more information on the Aga Khan Garden, visit

Quick Facts: Other Infrastructure Improvements at University of Alberta Botanic Garden

  • Landscape design and architecture for new parking lots, entry features and entry plaza by Dialog Design of Edmonton
  • Designed to improve circulation, wayfinding and accessibility for all visitors, and create a welcoming impression
  • Designs were sensitive to the protection of the nearby Imrie Wetland
  • Design features echo the garden’s natural surroundings and boreal forest setting
  • Three leaf shapes in the entry plaza (Leaf Plaza) naturally guide visitors to three major zones in the garden
  • A laser cut fence depicts a forest of aspen trees, like those found around garden
  • Leaves that are stamped into the concrete were collected from the site: aspen, oak, poplar, elm
  • The parking site intentionally slows cars down and begins the relaxing experience of visiting the garden
  • There are some endangered tree species in the parking lot, and the design celebrates and protects these. The Green Dragon spruce is endangered in its native Mongolia, and is the only known species in North America. The Green Dragon Meadow is a space for groups to gather
  • Four large trees were protected in the parking lot that are 40+ years old
  • Parking went from 210 stalls to nearly 600 – capacity was nearly tripled by better organization of the existing lot and addition of an overflow lot in another area of the garden
  • Decorative rammed earth wall that greets visitors as soon as they enter from the highway uses soils (sands) that are found in the area

About His Highness the Aga Khan

His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the largest private development agencies in the world. In Islam, religious leaders not only interpret the faith but also have a responsibility to help improve the quality of life in their community and in the societies amongst which they live.

Since taking on his role as Imam in 1957, the Aga Khan has been deeply engaged in improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, while emphasizing the need to uphold human dignity as well as respect for tolerance and pluralism.

About the Memorandum of Understanding

  • Signed April 7, 2017 by presidents of the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University; built on previous agreements signed in 2006 and 2009
  • The Aga Khan Garden is a symbol of the ongoing partnership between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University – a collaboration that has fostered intellectual, cultural and educational exchange for over a decade

About the University of Alberta Botanic Garden

The University of Alberta Botanic Garden (formerly the Devonian Botanic Garden), established in 1959, is a 97-hectare property located in Parkland County, 15 minutes SW of Edmonton.  It is an award-winning seasonal visitor attraction, a research site, and home to year-round adult and children’s education programming. The garden has won an Alberta Emerald Award for its outdoor environmental education programs, attended by more than 17,000 children per year. It was named the Top Botanic Garden in Canada in 2014 by the Canadian Garden Tourism Council. It is linked to the North Saskatchewan River via the Parkland County trail and is linked to the 74 km Edmonton Capital Region river valley recreation trail system.

The mission of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden is to inspire connections between plants and people through curated collections, innovative education, research, conservation and experiences.

The garden is open daily to visitors from June 29 through October 8, 2018.

For more information on the University of Alberta Botanic Garden:

For media inquiries:

Kerry Mulholland, Communications Coordinator
University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Phone: 780-492-3303