Magnificent Metal Monday – Steel Fabrication Pushed to New Heights with Canadian Museum Renovation Project

Photo credit: Elliott Lewis Photography

Designed by Studio Libeskind, the extension to the Royal Ontario Museum, located in downtown Toronto, truly represents the versatility of how the use of metal can bring art and design to life. Now almost five years now since the extension opened, the ROM is considered the largest Museum in Canada and attracts more than a million visitors a year. It’s new name “Michael Lee-Chin Crystal,” is derived from the building’s five intersecting metal-clad volumes, reminiscent of crystals were inspired by the crystalline forms in the Museum’s mineralogy galleries.

The design team created a structure of organically interlocking prismatic forms turning this important corner of Toronto, and the entire museum complex, into a luminous beacon. The design succeeds at inviting glimpses up, down, and into galleries, from its interior bridges and from the street. The large entrance atrium, the Gloria Hyacinth Chen Court, separates the old historic building from the new, providing a nearly complete view of the restored façades of the historic buildings. The Chen Court also serves as a venue space for all kinds of public events. The entire ground level is unified into a seamless space with clarity of circulation and transparency (Source: Studio Libeskind).

According to the design team, “The ‘Crystal’ presented a unique challenge to build and was among the most complicated construction projects in North America. There are no right angles and only one vertical wall in the structure — the five crystals are designed as interlocking self-supported structures.” They worked with general contractors to develop innovative strategies with existing technologies to regularize construction and reduce costs. According to Canadian Architect, ” Approximately 2,800 tonnes of steel, 3,000 steel pieces, 38 tonnes of bolts, and 9,000 cubic metres of concrete were used to complete the Lee-Chin Crystals intricate structure, with unique challenges that push the limits of steel fabrication and construction.”

The expansion provided 100,000 square feet of new exhibition space, a new entrance and lobby, a street level retail shop and three new restaurants. A new group entrance on Queen’s Park was created where visitors enter a spectacular atrium in which the two themes of the Museum, nature and culture, are distinctly showcased through intertwining staircases leading to the exhibitions above.

Photo Credit: Michele Nastasi

Studio Libeskind also renovated ten galleries in the existing historical building as part of the project. The Crystal generated a 44% increase in visitors in its first year and transformed the ROM’s fortress-like character, turning it into an inspired atmosphere dedicated to the resurgence of the Museum as the dynamic center of Toronto.

It has been recognized with the following awards –

2009 – XVII Concorso Internazionale – “Sistema d’autore Metra”

2008 – Named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s “New Seven Wonders of the World”

2007 – Ontario Steel Design Awards – Canada Institute of Steel Construction

Photo Credit: Royal Ontario Museum

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