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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)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Toronto's ugliest building makes a lousy museum

It's no secret that I hate the Royal Ontario Museum's new addition, the Michael Lee Chin Crystal. Not only is it ugly, but it leaks and it's dangerous in the winter. Now comes news that the building's design by World Famous Architect Daniel Libeskind makes it unsuited for it's principal function - displaying artifacts.

Today the ROM opened the last of its new galleries in the Crystal - the Patricia Harris Costume Gallery. The new space will display artifacts from the ROM's extensive collection of costume and textiles, but it has been poorly designed for that purpose. Curator Alexandra Palmer explains in an article in today's National Post:

Palmer is likewise ambivalent about whether the space designated for the textile collection is suitable. From the shape of the room to the threat of light leaking in through the strip-like windows, the curators fell victim to architect Daniel Libeskind's pursuit of fashion.

"This is a very glamorous setting, but it's created difficulties," Palmer said. "We had to sort of work within the frame. It's a Daniel Libeskind building and that's what you've got. It's not a normal gallery with straight walls, which is what we need to hang textiles."

The solution, bringing in vertical cases to place along the walls, ended up reducing the volume of the space. The result is a room that looks considerably more closed-in by casework than airy artist's renditions had foretold.

Whereas some have complained that the Crystal's galleries are too dim, Palmer's team actually found that the fourth floor leaked too much light.

"We've blacked out the light with all these blinds," said Palmer, gesturing at the angular ceiling and its skinny windows. "We've had to do that because textiles are so light-sensitive. It's the one thing that will absolutely permanently damage them."

So, the ROM commissioned World Famous Architect Daniel Libeskind to design a World Famous Building to display its collection, and he produces a hideous monstrosity that makes it difficult to display the collection. Go figure.


pettitji said...

You mean you don't like the dead end corridors, the unlabelled pathways to the old building or the total lack of places to orient yourself? The ROM designers did one better though. The place is full of cabinets with no explanation of what you are looking at or why.

Babylonian said...

That city could sure use some humility right now.......Toronto never will be a world class city.