A Look Inside Fumihiko Maki’s Gorgeous New Museum For Islamic Art

The Aga Khan, designed by Fumihiko Maki, is North America’s first museum dedicated to Islamic art.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art made headlines in 2011 when it reopened its Islamic art galleries after years of renovation. Amid ongoing American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 19,000 square-foot wing, complete with a Maghrebi-Andalusian-style courtyard built from scratch by Moroccan artisans, struck a chord with visitors curious to see another side of Islamic culture.


Now, a new museum set to open in Toronto next week, with more than double the Met’s gallery space, is poised to establish North America’s first dedicated home for Islamic art.

Pritzker Prize-winner Fumihiko Maki designed the 47,000 square-foot Aga Khan Museum, its smooth granite facade topped with crenels that evoke a battlement. Inside the fortress-like walls, patterned glass skylights and floor tiles echo Islam’s famous mosaics. Maki, whose past projects include 4 World Trade Center and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan, is known as “a modernist who has fused the best of both eastern and western cultures,” according to the Pritzker jury.

“Detailing is what gives architecture its rhythm and scale,” Maki has been known to tell students and admirers.

The museum is the brainchild of billionaire Prince Shah Karim Al Huseeini, also known as His Highness the Aga Khan, who serves as the 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Islam’s second largest sect. Educated at Harvard and heir to a wide-ranging art collection, he began augmenting his family’s Islamic art holdings in the 1990s, with a focus on Indian miniature paintings, and decided to bring the resulting collection under one public-facing roof in 2003.

Ivory horn from
southern Italy, 11th–12th centuries

Notable works in the Aga Khan collection include illuminated paintings from India and Iran, an 11th-century medical encyclopedia, and an ivory horn carved with mythical animals. The museum opens to the public on September 18.

[h/t the Wall Street Journal]


About the author

Senior Writer Ainsley Harris joined Fast Company in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.