Royal Ontario Museum | ?m | ?s | Daniel Libeskind

jje1000

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There's way too much money invested in the Crystal despite its sub-par performance- if they do some heavier-duty renovations to the Crystal that serious rejig the way some of the spaces flow and potentially rationalizing some of the interior (i.e. filling in some of the more useless spaces like the Spirit House and corners of the atrium), it could be with us for a while.

I wonder though how much it costs to maintain a building like the Crystal and if the costs needed to maintain it preclude any expansion plans.
 

MetroMan

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I just renewed my membership after having taken 3 years off. I used to be in there 2-3 times a week (I used it as an offsite workspace) so I immediately noticed the differences. Most have to do with replacing stairs and wheelchair elevators in galleries with ramps which do a much better job of guiding visitors. They've improved the flow.

The problems that remain have to do with the unrenovated galleries in the old wings. The only part of the crystal that doesn't work is the stairwell. It feels like an emergency exit, not the necessary part of the experience of moving from gallery to gallery that it really is. There's so much that can be done that just wasn't followed through on. It's called the Stair of Wonders for a reason. Every landing is supposed to be a mini gallery destination but it was never properly implemented. They need to make the entire stairwell one large major gallery that you walk through on your way to other galleries. The lighting needs to be dimmed — light the steps and the banisters and individual displayed items on the walls along the way instead.

The exterior needs work too. I've said this before but the ROM really has the potential to be a much beloved icon for this city. Replace the mismatched metal panels with frosted glass instead. Light it from behind. A real glowing crystal.

I think the ROM is keeping their powder dry and biding their time. They still haven't been paid by donors from the previous massive fundraising campaign and the city is kind of tapped out on philanthropy. Give it another 5-10 years and they can make another major fundraising push to build the South crystal and make the necessary changes to the existing crystal and older wings.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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Said it before - whatever the merits of the Libeskind addition is, the sheer chutzpah of building something like it in Toronto meant that the structure itself (not the cladding per se) should always be preserved. As to potential improvements - higher quality material inside and out, fire-rated glass doors for the staircase (no panic bars please, it's looks ridiculous); a more "enveloping" gallery for the same (like, why is the stair of wonders mostly drywall and not almost entirely glass display vitrines - like for geological strata/staircase of life?), etc. The potential is fairly endless.

AoD
 
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modernizt

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When a building's entire concept is so flawed - right down to its circulation (one of the key priorities in a museum program) - no amount of fire-rated glass or cladding improvements will change it for the better in any meaningful way.
 

MetroMan

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When a building's entire concept is so flawed - right down to its circulation (one of the key priorities in a museum program) - no amount of fire-rated glass or cladding improvements will change it for the better in any meaningful way.

I don't see a problem with circulation with the crystal. It's the old wings that are a maze. The crystal has well defined spaces that flow from one to the other with a central stairwell connecting them together and the spirit room as a visual reference where you are regardless of which floor you're on. The confusion begins once you transition into the old wings.

What Alvin said about glass doors and glass virtrines in the Stair of Wonders would make a big difference. Right now, the stairwell feels like an emergency exit, not a place essential to moving from gallery to gallery. Making it feel like a destination and opening it visually to the galleries and the atrium would fix this.

Overall, the entire interior of the crystal needs a lot less drywall and a lot more glass.
 

modernizt

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The issue with the old wings is that the "crystal" did not weave them together as part of a cohesive program bound by some particular conception of circulation. If it had been a well-designed modern museum with any respect for the heritage wings and the ROM as it existed, it would have done so. It can be done - designers of great museums around the world have had to work with far more challenging forms than the old wings of the ROM, and have achieved a much greater effect and a concept that makes for a cohesive experience as one moves through the museum and an understandable circulatory path. The issue is not the older wings; I would argue that the issue with the ROM is in fact very much with the newer portion and its relationship to what came before.

Libeskind's answer was to plop down a grand staircase in a soaring atrium and use a bunch of crystalline geometry to wow shareholders and philanthropists. It did not attempt any dialogue with the existing ROM wings, nor did it have a real concept or architectural parti at its core. That blame is on Libeskind, not on the original ROM buildings.

I should note that Libeskind was great as an architectural theorist and his exploration of architectural forms were very worthwhile. But he was much better as a paper architect. Since his Jewish Museum, everything he does comes across as a thoughtless and a very post rationalized and disingenuous re-hash. But that's the power of a name and a 'brand'.
 
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MetroMan

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The issue with the old wings is that the "crystal" did not weave them together as part of a cohesive program bound by some particular conception of circulation. If it had been a well-designed modern museum with any respect for the heritage wings and the ROM as it existed, it would have done so. It can be done - designers of great museums around the world have had to work with far more challenging forms than the old wings of the ROM, and have achieved a much greater effect and a concept that makes for a cohesive experience as one moves through the museum and an understandable circulatory path. The issue is not the older wings; I would argue that the issue with the ROM is in fact very much with the newer portion and its relationship to what came before.

Libeskind's answer was to plop down a grand staircase in a soaring atrium and use a bunch of crystalline geometry to wow shareholders and philanthropists. It did not attempt any dialogue with the existing ROM wings, nor did it have a real concept or architectural parti at its core. That blame is on Libeskind, not on the original ROM buildings.

I should note that Libeskind was great as an architectural theorist and his exploration of architectural forms were very worthwhile. But he was much better as a paper architect. Since his Jewish Museum, everything he does comes across as a thoughtless and a very post rationalized and disingenuous re-hash. But that's the power of a name and a 'brand'.

I disagree. The crystal was designed to integrate into the old wings and it does. But the subsequent work needed on the old wings to fulfill the design were postponed (or cancelled). A south crystal on the Planetarium grounds was cancelled. It would have completed the circuit. Will Thorsell who envisioned Renaissance ROM left without finishing the work so it's up to the new administration to step back, see what they've got and determine a way forward.

The priority should be in eliminating the maze and dead ends of galleries in the old wings and converting them to linear spaces like the western wing (Asian galleries) on the first floor — which was renovated as per plan — and then completing the link on the southern gap, whether with a crystal or a different kind of building. That would complete a circular circuit that passes through both old wings and the Crystal.
 

Johnny Au

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The proposed southern enclosure should be large enough to house a full temple, just like the Met; however, that would require the demolition of McLaughlin Planetarium and the acquisition of a temple.

I noticed that Friday evenings with discounted ticket prices are still rather empty; if the museum cannot afford free Friday evenings like it used to, then it would be wise for the ROM to test out Met-style pay-as-you-can approach on Friday evenings instead.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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The proposed southern enclosure should be large enough to house a full temple, just like the Met; however, that would require the demolition of McLaughlin Planetarium and the acquisition of a temple.

I noticed that Friday evenings with discounted ticket prices are still rather empty; if the museum cannot afford free Friday evenings like it used to, then it would be wise for the ROM to test out Met-style pay-as-you-can approach on Friday evenings instead.

The planetarium site was sold to U of T - it's not ROM's anymore.

AoD
 

MetroMan

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Speaking of the planetarium, it's being restored if the sign out front is to be taken literally.

mIOzHy2.jpg


Also, I was talking about the restoration of the old wings a few posts back and it now looks to be happening. Here's the west wing from Philosopher's Walk:
jVpr88N.jpg


The Queens Park entrance stairs and ramp rebuild is also underway:

ITp03VV.jpg


On Bloor, the hoarding goes beyond the area slated for a canopy. They're definitely starting to work on the new Bloor street plaza in sections. I also noticed some minor work inside some of the galleries.

And finally, as per my earlier comments about flow though the museum, it is definitely the fault of the unrenovated old wings. They really are a mess of a maze. The restored west wing's first floor (Asian galleries) are beautiful, open and easy to navigate. I hope that they find a budget to continue that work throughout the entire museum. The Crystal will make so much more sense if they fix the old buildings to match its open, minimalist style.

And finally, the cancelled south crystal is such a critical piece to fulfilling the vision of Renaissance ROM. It's such a shame that they had to scale back. The bunker that is there now really breaks up the natural circulation of the building and hides the beautiful brickwork of the original wings:

oyEeLz4.jpg
 

modernizt

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The Crystal will make so much more sense if they fix the old buildings to match its open, minimalist style.

Please God no. It's like people who buy an old Victorian house because they claim to love Victorians and then they make it open-concept and remove everything that made it Victorian in the first place. The old wings were never meant to have an "open, minimalist style" and they are beautiful because they offer something different than the contemporary.
 

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