The Diwan, Edmonton, Alberta. Canada | 2022
Architects: AXIA Design Associates
Lead Architect: Taymoore Balbaa
Associate Architects: Arriz & Co.
Associate Architect Team: Arriz Hassam
General Contractor: Clark Builders
Client: University of Alberta
Photographers: Michael Manchakowski, AXIA Design Associates
The Diwan is a year-round pavilion and event space for the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens and the final piece of the Aga Khan Garden Alberta. The building extends the themes of the Garden, a contemporary interpretation of Islamic landscape architecture in a northern Canadian climate. The Diwan has a strong yet understated presence within the Garden, its horizontal form hovering along its southern boundary. A sizeable overhang provides shelter, marking its entry and offering a view into the main hall and the forest beyond. It lies symmetrical to the Garden’s north-south axis, acting as its terminus and marking the garden’s edge with the forest.
As a flexible space for performances, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and weddings, the pavilion ‘offsets’ some of the symmetries of the Aga Khan Garden, balancing the garden context with the pavilion’s function as a large public room. Research began with the underlying themes of the Chahar Bagh garden typology found in Mughal gardens, a key reference for the Aga Khan Garden. The function, scale, and detailing of this historical garden were a source of inspiration, as were broader traditions of Islamic building arts. Geometric patterns, surfaces, and screens are embedded throughout the Diwan and further enrich the visitor experience of building and garden.
The design, massing, and material selection is that of a contemporary building that interprets traditional principles. The Diwan will be a beacon of gathering and intellectual interaction. It will be a home of the arts and of celebration, as well as a symbol of rich heritage, tradition and cultural pluralism. It is imbued with cultural sensitivity and historic legacy, while remaining responsive to its garden settings, programmatic requirements, and the context of northern Alberta. In the evening, the Diwan will serve as a beacon, illuminated by a warm and welcoming lantern-like light.