Bouncing around the Northeast - Part One: Toronto

I haven't been as diligent about keeping up my blog the past few weeks as I have been doing some travelling around the northeast region of North America - specifically to Toronto, Connecticut and New York City. Luckily for me, it was just before the cold really settled in and the snow arrived. I took some pictures along the way and like always I have some opinions about what I saw.

There has been much hoopla in Toronto regarding Daniel Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), otherwise known as the "Michael Lee-Chin Crystal." In my opinion, this is due in large part to the fact that Toronto is in dire need of well designed, thoughtful architecture (and good urban planning). Just drive around the waterfront or suburbs and take a look at the barrage of condos and commercial buildings under construction and you will know exactly what I mean. Earlier this summer, this $135 million ROM addition opened up finally to the public. So while I was in Toronto, I thought I would take a trip downtown and take a look for myself.

At first glance, the 'Crystal' seems intriguing and it does add some vitality and excitement to the stodgy, dark appearance of the ROM and the street. Unfortunately, that for me is where the value of this building ends. Inside the building, the angular spaces and oddly shaped slits of window are suffocating; that coupled with the angled walls, I felt like I was wandering through a structure that was in the process of collapsing. While this building maybe an interesting experiment in the correlation between different types of spaces and the emotions they evoke; for a museum, these interior spaces do not promote the viewing and appreciation the art. Instead I was eager to exit the building. The slanting walls, I would imagine, must also be a logistical nightmare to hang and exhibit art. Well designed museums should be rich with spaces that are uplifting and open and allow the art displayed to be the primary focus. However, in Libeskind's Crystal, the shape of the building and oddly formed spaces dominate. And as the ROM is continues to struggle to pay the steep bill for this design, the building has started to leak and the cost of cleaning the windows is sky-rocketing.

I guess, Torontonians in search of thoughtful and responsive architecture will just have to wait for Frank Gehry's addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to be complete. But then, his buildings are also often flashy on the outside, weak on the inside and they leak too - just ask MIT.

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