The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) unveiled its restored Weston Entrance on Queen’s Park this morning, wrapping up a revitalization project by Hariri Pontarini Architects that has breathed new life into the Toronto institution's Italianate Neo-Romanesque architecture. Jointly funded by the Government of Ontario and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, this element of the museum's Welcome Project is now reanimating the institution's Queen's Park frontage, reopening a heritage entry point that has been closed off for several years.
The restoration has greatly improved the aesthetics and accessibility of the 1931-32 built doors. Limestone steps leading from the sidewalk on Queens Park have been widened, and heating has been installed below. This was noticeable during this morning's dusting of snow, with accumulation evident everywhere but the steps. At the top of the steps, the previous wooden doors have been replaced with modern glass doors, offering glimpses into the restored rotunda within.
Flanking the steps, ramps now offer an accessible entrance to the reopened east frontage. New landscaping has also been added, including an expanded green space which improves the ROM's public realm accommodations. The landscaping now provides outdoor seating, paving, trees, and hedges, all designed to draw passersby into the museum. Other changes include the addition of new architectural lighting to enhance the Hilary and Galen Weston Wing and The Weston Family Wing exteriors after dark.
This morning's opening was attended by Josh Basseches, Director & CEO at the ROM; Hilary M. Weston of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation; Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport; Susan Horvath, President & CEO of ROM Governors; and Toronto Mayor John Tory. After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, guests, media, and VIPs were guided inside for a first glimpse at the restored interiors.
Just inside the reopened entrance, the rotunda space has been impressively polished. The space's original mosaic ceiling—consisting of thousands of sheets of imported Venetian glass cut in over one million squares—limestone arches, and even stone flooring have been meticulously cleaned to better reflect their original condition.
After visitors had the chance to explore the rotunda's ornate details, the crowd moved into the Samuel Hall Currelly Gallery for a brief period of remarks, stopping on the way to admire a cake scale model of the museum, which involved over 100 hours of work and extensive photographic references to create.
ROM Director and CEO Josh Basseches was the first to take the podium, introducing the community to the ROM's new look. "This project opens up the ROM—both literally and symbolically—to our community, offering visitors better access to their Museum and builds on our commitment to create an exceptional visitor experience,” said Basseches.
Hilary Weston was next to take the podium, thanking Josh Basseches for his involvement and dedication to the project, saying "the reopening of this iconic entrance and reimagining of the ROM’s physical environment from Philosopher’s Walk, to Bloor Street, to Queens Park, all speak to your passion."
The mic was then handed off to Eleanor McMahon, Ontario's Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, who reaffirmed the provincial government's commitment to investing in sites of cultural importance. “The revitalization of the ROM heritage entrance will create an accessible and welcoming gathering spot for museum-goers," said McMahon. "Our government’s new investment in the ROM will better integrate this cultural gem with the community and offer new discoveries that will bring people closer to the rich history of this province and our shared heritage with Indigenous peoples.”
Mayor John Tory echoed the importance of maintaining culture in the city, describing a meeting he had earlier this morning with "a group of people from overseas, looking to bring a huge convention to Toronto." Beyond finding a place to host a convention, the group was "very interested in spending a few days exploring Toronto’s cultural life," with sites like the ROM a component of this cultural appeal.
The Welcome project's next phase will aim to improve the ROM's Bloor Street West frontage. Parts of the current concrete plaza area set to be accentuated include the Helga and Mike Schmidt Performance Terrace as well as the Nita and Don Reed Plaza. Additional landscaping will also be included in future phases.
As part of the reopening celebrations, the ROM is offering free admission for the duration of the day (closing at 5:30 PM).
You can learn more about past upgrades to the ROM by visiting our database file for the museum, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the related Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.
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