The Royal Ontario Museum
November 26, 2010
“Purity is obscurity.” - Ogden Nash, “Reflection On A Wicked World”
Over the years when I’ve visited Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) appeared as an important cultural symbol for the city and an important place for any travelers to experience. With my family some time ago, we stepped into the classically symmetrical building situated near the University of Toronto and a stone’s throw from Queen’s Park. As we were a bit exhausted from walking around the eclectic quilt of Chinatown, it was refreshing to step into the heritage architectural jewel.
Since my family’s pit stop experience, the ROM added a new wing: Michael Lee-Chin Crystal designed by Daniel Libeskind. After a 270 million dollar construction, the Crystal galleries opened in 2010.
The design of Libeskind is beautiful sculpture, a complete art piece, much like his successfully executed design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany. In Berlin, when the space was empty I fell in love with his design. So, when I learned that Crystal was complete, I cleared my calendar and hurdled over to experience Libeskind’s latest creation in Toronto.
The Deconstructivist crystalline-form is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminum atop a steel frame. The Crystal's canted wall never touches the sides of the existing heritage buildings, save the pedestrian crossing and the envelope closure between the new form and the existing walls. The addition is a portal to the heritage museum and draws well deserved attention from both locals and tourists.
Some may agree that the forms intrigue and invite visitors to experience its interior, and that the Crystal is a contemporary expression characteristic of the contents found inside; however, others may think that the expressions are literal, crystallizing forms, with angry, sharp edges that detract people from appreciating the objects it contains.
Much like my experience with his design in Berlin, I prefer Mr. Libeskind’s space to be empty and exhibited as a naked sculpture rather than a museum. With its large museum storefront, I focused more on shopping than learning about the exhibits. I certainly felt the clashes between the distinctive angular walls and the beautiful contents of the museum’s exhibitions. Perhaps the clashing edges are what I should have appreciated rather than expecting continuity of each addition at the ROM.