Architect: Daniel Libeskind Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Client: Royal Ontario Museum Building Size: 182,000 sq. ft/ 17280 sqm
Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is an extension to the Royal Ontario Museum, sited north of Queen’s Park, one of the most well-known crossings in downtown Toronto. with its main entrance on Bloor Street West. With this expansion in 2007, the museum is the largest in the whole of Canada and the third-largest in North America. The museum with its new 100000 square feet of new exhibition space, a new lobby and entrance, a street-level shop and three new restaurants, now attracts more than a million visitors in a year. Studio Daniel Libeskind also renovated ten galleries in the existing historical building as part of this project.
The building consists of five intersecting volumes, symbolizing crystals, originating the new name for the museum. Spirit House is a void created by the intersection of two of these crystals in the gallery space. The Spirit House consists of a large atrium rising from below ground level to the fourth floor and is broken up by bridges crossing it at various levels. This space is mainly intended to be a space of reflection for the visitors and providing a break from the exhibitions. The stair of Wonders is a crystal that is dedicated to vertical circulation but also features exhibition vitrines at the landings. The final crystal accommodates a restaurant.
The design is successful at inviting glimpses up, down, and inside. It is constructed with steel and the façade is cladded with aluminum and glass windows. Contradicting the chaotic exterior, the interiors consist of a variety of foyers at different levels created through the intersection of crystal-like spaces. This offers various unique views into the galleries, and progression to the façades. The large entrance atrium, the Gloria Hyacinth Chen Court, separates the old historic building from the new, where the two themes of the Museum, nature, and culture, are distinctly showcased through intertwining staircases leading to the exhibitions. The Chen Court also serves as a venue space for all kinds of public events. The entire ground level is unified into a seamless space with clarity of circulation and transparency.
The building appears to dominate the historic existing building. It appears that Daniel Libeskind forced his modern architecture onto the traditional brick building of the original museum, doing nothing to create a more graceful transition from one form to another. He failed at not giving much attention and consideration to the existing structure.
The Crystal presented a unique challenge to build and was among the most complicated construction projects in North America. There are no right angles and only one vertical wall in the structure—the five crystals are designed as interlocking self-supported structures. The design teams and general contractors developed innovative strategies with existing technologies to regularize construction and reduce costs.
The crystal also holds the sense of urbanity to its interiors, sitting linearly through walkways, bridges, vantage points and windows. The buildings design considerations mainly focused on providing maximum pleasure to its visitors.
2009 – XVII Concorso Internazionale – “Sistema d’autore Metra”
2008 – Named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s “New Seven Wonders of the World”
2007 – Ontario Steel Design Awards – Canada Institute of Steel Construction