Dawn of the Crystal Age – Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum, commonly known as the ROM, is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is Canada’s largest museum of world culture and natural history. The ROM is the fifth largest museum in North America, containing more than six million items and over 40 galleries. It has notable collections of dinosaurs, Near Eastern and African art, East Asian art, European history, and Canadian history. It contains the world’s largest collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale with more than 150,000 specimens.

The ROM opened in March 14, 1914, designed by Toronto architects Frank Darling and John A. Pearson. The architectural style is Italianate Neo-Romanesque, popular throughout North America until the 1870s. Over the years, The ROM has undergone three major expansions.

In October 12, 1933 The ROM’s first expansion included the museum’s elaborate art deco, Byzantine-inspired rotunda and a new main entrance on Queen’s Park. The new wing was designed by Alfred H. Chapman and James Oxley.

The second major addition was the Queen Elizabeth II Terrace Galleries on the north side of the building, and a curatorial centre built on the south, which were started in 1978, completed in 1984, and designed by Toronto architect Gene Kinoshita, with Mathers & Haldenby.

Recently, the museum has undergone it’s third major renovation and expansion project, dubbed Renaissance ROM. The centrepiece is the recently-opened Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and Bregman + Hamann Architects.

The Libeskind design, selected from among 50 entrants in an international competition, saw the Terrace Galleries torn down and replaced with a Deconstructivist crystalline-form.

Controversy, outrage and ranked in the top 10 ugliest buildings of the world lists; the Crystal has had a difficult introduction into the annals of architecture. I was intrigued.

My initial feelings when seeing the new section of the building were that it no longer wants to or can just meld into city scape. Look at me, I am here, it now screams!

Over the years, my eye has repeatedly been drawn to Architecture and Abstract forms.  To me, architecture speaks of permanence and the interaction of the structure to it’s environment. On the other hand, revealing abstract forms is an alternative way for me to describe my visual world and experience.

Early Sunday morning in the Spring of 2009, I headed downtown with the intent photographing the exterior of this building and how it interacted with the stately museum of the past.  Sunday Morning’s are relatively peaceful on downtown streets of Toronto. Bloor and Queen’s Park were almost devoid of pedestrians and I was able to photograph this structure without the human element. Although, architecture’s main purpose is to shelter humans, my intention during this trip was to look for abstract forms in the crystalline shapes and to explore the different architectural styles now present at the ROM.


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