08 May 2007

ROM crystal; Crystal meth - coincidence? I think not

So I just walked past the ROM construction site where they’ve now begun putting on what I assume to be the final exterior cladding. I am compelled to say that it looks awful. Completely and absolutely terrible. Almost oppressively bad. I would uncategorically file it under eyesore which will spoil Toronto for generations to come.

Way back in the day, when the design competition for the ROM make-over was announced, I happened to got to the museum and saw all the different architects’ briefs and plans. I remember thinking that two of the designs were very aesthetic and well thought out, some were not as good, and then there was Daniel Libeskind’s design, drawn on the back of napkins from the ROM cafeteria. Asinine. How is it possible to judge a multi-million dollar project from a proposal that was submitted in marker, on napkins?! You couldn’t even understand what the design was; much less understand how it was all going to work. It was drawn on the back of a napkin for chrissakes! But I called it right then that Libeskind’s napkin design was going to be chosen because he was the most famous applicant and Toronto’s world class insecurity needs to be fed by celebrity architects and their flash-in-the-pan antics.

After Libeskind's design was chosen, they released this model, which I actually thought was kind of nice in a traditional/post-modern pastiche, deconstructionist kind of way:

But then fast-forward to a few months later when, suddenly, someone points out 'hey, you can't build a museum entirely out of glass.' I might be wrong, but I assumed that an internationally-renowned architect would be smart enough to realise that museums can't be glass because of the non-mixability of ancient artifacts and direct sunlight. So, it's back to the drawing-board for another napkinesque redesign. Then someone pointed out 'hey, this redesign isn't suitable for the climate,' because –surprise– it snows in Toronto. So, time for another redesign. Then another person pointed out that the ROM looks exactly like Libeskind's design for the Denver Art Museum. Time for another, um, redesign, ...oh wait, well... uh, I guess we'll just let that one slide.

This building is lame and the interior design not withstanding, qualifies as a total cock-up. It’s really a shame because this was an opportunity to make something that really added to the character of the city, but instead is a clunky, jagged lump of bland monotony. Mr Libeskind, your ROM redesign is officially “On Notice” and unless you manage to pull something really spectacular out of your ass in the next few months, your unplanned and un-thought-out, napkin-based design is going to be sitting on my “Dead to Me” list for a long, long time.

Thanks for ruining Toronto forever, Napkin-head!


Michael Motor-Cyclorama said...

I couldn't agree more. Why did they chose a brown/tan colour for the "siding" that makes up the majority of this "crystal?" IT IS SO UGLY. It looks like a badly constructed home from a suburb of a suburb.

Miss Ash said...

Soooooo Ugly!!!! In fact I hate it. I could have made something more aesthetically pleasing.

Jennifer said...

I hate the crystal, the design sucks, the execution of the design has been even worse. I'm sick of the construction, the construction workers are assholes. I hate the crystal.
Perhaps I'll warm up to it after the interior first floor opens in June, but I doubt it.

Unknown said...

i am officially a crystal converter. true, it took a trip at 4:30am to get on board, but being outside and inside the crystal at nighttime was actually an experience. i also recently found out that the ROM's renovations projects will increase the public space by 25% and nearly double the amount of objects to display. we'll be able to see dinosaur bones from the street!!

final verdict - slightly misguided, poorly planned, odd-looking, but ultimately faily cool. i went through the same process with the OCAD building, which i now love.

Tokyo Tintin said...

The most insightful thing I've hear someone say about the Crystal: "It's not beautiful, but it is interesting."