Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

The ROM, located at the intersection of Bloor Street and Queen’s Park Ave, references the model of the grand upper-class collection of rare objects in the 17th and 18th centuries [1], and originally takes a form very similar to that of J.N.L Durand’s 1808 ideal model of the museum[2]. The master plan of an H-shaped structure was completed in 1909 by the Toronto architectural firm Darling & Pearson, as a joint project between the Provincial government and the University of Toronto. In 1933, Chapman & Oxley added on to the already existing western wing of the museum, deviating from the master plan Darling & Pearson had envisioned.  Again in 1978, Moffat Moffat & Kinoshita expanded a curatorial space in the north and south openings of the H-shaped design, terracing on the north onto Bloor Street. Daniel Libeskind then added his signature to the city by designing a “crystal” addition in 2007, replacing the curatorial terraces that Moffat Moffat & Kinoshita had previously added.[3]


East facade, showing main entrance


The east wing (1909) consists of a yellow-brick façade with a pattern of large arched windows, a sculptural arcade of pilasters, and a deep cornice at the very top to add a sense of completion. The west wing (1933) features rusticated stone work, and eight bays radiating from a grand central entrance way (left).  The rustication and heavy masonry add to the immense feeling of monumentality, and symbolism is present in sculptural reliefs relating to the contents of the museum. The crystal addition (2007) interlocks five prismatic structures (below) attached to the heritage building. Several geometrically-unique windows are scattered on the crystalline sides, controlling daylight emitted into the galleries below. It attempts to add a level of transparency to a rather heavy base building through the light aluminum cladding and the emphasis put on the angular windows, creating a blurred transitional zone inside between the private galleries in the heritage building and Bloor Street. The radical juxtaposition creates a new relationship and identity between the heritage structure and the crystal, adding new life to the typical heritage building wings on the east and west façades.[4] As a duck squished between two decorated sheds – as Robert Venturi would say – the museum’s new form begins to reinterpret and communicate the changing vision of the ROM in a unique way.


Daniel Libeskind's crystal addition (facing east)


Works Cited:

[1] Bennett, Tony. The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. London: Routledge, 1995. 18-19. Print.

[2] Macdonald, Sharon. “Museum Architecture: A Brief History.” A Companion to Museum Studies. Malden, MA.: Blackwell, 2008. 224-26. Print.

[3] Browne, Kelvin. Bold Visions: the Architecture of the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: ROM, 2008. Print.

[4] Goodfellow, Margaret, and Phil Goodfellow. A Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Toronto. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2010. 23-24+. Print.


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