On a sunny weekend earlier this summer, the gardens at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon, along with other flourishing green spaces in the surrounding area, participated in the third edition of the Open Gardens Festival, welcoming visitors, and sharing its diverse flora with the public. 

During the weekend, visitors had the opportunity to explore the large open spaces that make up part of the Ismaili Centre complex and discover the great variety of species of plants, mostly Mediterranean, spread over the four main gardens that surround the building - the Pine Garden, the Garden of Fruits, the Jacarandas Garden and the Olive Garden – as well as the six patios inside the building, two of them being the Char Bagh and the Spring Courtyard on the ground level.

The stunning outdoor spaces were conceived by the Centre’s architect, Raj Rewal, who worked in collaboration with the landscape architects Anne Chatelut and Françoise Cremmel, and were later developed by the Portuguese company PROAP under the coordination of the architect João Ferreira Nunes. 

The gardens at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon contribute to the preservation of green areas in the city, and promote a sense of sustainability and respect for nature, all within a serene urban context. Landscape architect Vera Ramos noted that, “The gardens are an essential and inseparable part of this complex. In its courtyards and paths that were carefully designed to walk freely and to encourage introspection, visitors will find over 100 botanical species that come from all over the world.”

After several weeks of odd weather in Lisbon, the first day of the festival started with a sunny morning, lighting up the Ismaili Centre’s gardens and warmly welcoming hundreds of visitors, including 185 of whom participated in guided tours of the Centre.

The tours were conducted by the official tour guides of the Ismaili Centre, who accepted the challenge to offer tours exclusively of the gardens for the first time. Tour guide Rahim Sacoor said, “It was a unique opportunity to be able to learn more about our Gardens at the Ismaili Centre, about the complexity and symbolism surrounding the selection process for every single plant, and to be able to convey this information to people who were genuinely interested to hear more about what we had to share.”

On the second day of the festival, the sunny weather remained, which allowed hundreds more visitors to appreciate the flowering and blossoming of the different species, as well as the rich colours and scents. Vera Ramos continued, “As a living entity, the garden transforms itself over time; each visit is unique and unrepeatable. During the visits in May, the species in prominence were the fire tree of Illawarra (Brachychiton acerifolius) and the jacarandas, with their exuberant blooms.”

“The Ismaili Centre’s gardens are a little paradise in the middle of the city. It was very interesting to discover through our guided tour, that the gardens comprise a very wide range of plants and species. It was incredible - we loved it.” said Rute Montenegro, one of the Centre’s visitors during the Festival. 

The Ismaili Centre’s gardens are a relatively recent addition to the northern area of the city, which previously made it an unknown place to many. However, participation in events such as Open Gardens, Open House, and the cultural festival Sons pela cidade has had a significant impact to the building in terms of recognition as a complex not only for the Ismaili community but one that welcomes others, and promotes dialogue and knowledge sharing.