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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More on Toronto's ugliest building

I wrote a post recently on my visit to the Royal Ontario Museum's addition - formally called the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal - where I called it "Toronto's ugliest building". So, it was with a certain amount of schadenfreude that I found out in a recent Globe & Mail story that not only is it ugly, but it leaks, it is difficult to display artifacts in its wacky spaces, and visitors treat the structure more like a jungle gym than a world-class museum:

As winter approaches, fingers are crossed that there will be no more puddles, and that the Crystal's cladding, designed to prevent it from turning into an avalanche-maker, will function as well in cold reality as it does in theory. But it's clear, four months into the Crystal's life, the new spaces pose huge challenges, and leaks are the least of them.

Far more daunting are the problems of mounting exhibits in the strange new spaces, ensuring public safety and budgeting for the new reality.

There are rumours that the Crystal's oddly shaped, difficult-to-access windows have increased window-cleaning costs by $200,000, a figure ROM's executive director of capital development and facilities, Al Shaikoli, disputes. "But it is considerable," he admitted. "In the old days, our window-cleaning budget was next to nothing."

Safety issues are a surprise. "We didn't predict human behaviour," Mr Shaikoli said. On the June weekend of its grand, all-night opening, ROM staffers discovered that, particularly after the bars closed, visitors seemed more interested in the Crystal as a playground than as architecture. Staff were alarmed to see people crawling out on windows slanting over Bloor Street, apparently testing their strength.

"Mind you, these galleries were naked spaces," Mr. Shaikoli said. "Once they're filled with artifacts, people will be more respectful." Display cases will soon be installed in the paths of future adventurers.

Another discovery was a trail of footprints most of the way up a fourth-floor wall that rises at a 30-degree angle. "Probably a kid took a run at it," speculates Dan Rahimi, director of gallery development. Baseboards and stainless steel barriers are being installed to signal that a wall is a wall, even if it's not on the straight and narrow.


As Paul Wells puts it, "it turns out that thousands of years of architectural tradition exist for a reason."

2 comments:

Raphael Alexander said...

I know several people who worked on that building for double time seven days a week. They all hated the project and especially the fact that there was a ton of "fragile" materials which were finished product that had to be preserved but ended up being covered up anyway. Some of my friends had jobs which consisted of simply wandering up plugging leaks. It was an endless job. But they all made a ton of cash. It was a cash cow that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

it looks like it will age really fast, like it will be 'so yesterday' by tomorrow. hope ya know what i mean, i can't explain it.