Sunday, October 16, 2005

The ROMs Grand Plan

Ciudad De Las Ciencias
Originally uploaded by Pablo Latorre.
We've all been watching with anticipation while construction of the ROM at Avenue and Bloor explodes with a ton of steel beams, its final shape yet to form. Once done we can all only hope the glass and steel structure will blow us away and inspire people to visit our city's grand museum of culture and history, the Royal Ontario Museum. Ultimately that is what we all wish for. Opportunities in this city don't present themselves all too often. The Opera House, which is nearing completion, looks fine but falls flat in the iconic structures department. So let's keep our fingers crossed, and hope the new ROM might be viewed as a masterpiece by people everywhere, like the stunning glass and beam Ciudad De Las Ciencias pictured here, a planetarium in Valencia, Spain. We can only hope, and have faith in our city planners and developers, for there is always great risk when innovation is the goal.
Over the past few years, there has been much hype over the architects and designers of the ROM space. The Libeskinds conceived the plan for the crystal structure addition named the Michael Lee-Chin Crytsal, but little press has been given to something that might make Torontonians a little less proud. In order to finance continued renovations, the ROM has sold off its neighbouring planetarium to developers who wish to build condos. Our sad little planetarium gets much less attention than the Ciudad De Las Ciencias but serves a purpose nonetheless, to educate others on the vast world of space that surrounds us. A world that is drawing closer everyday as explorers on Mars return its secrets to us. Should a large city like ours lose our connection to the bigger picture and move toward an insular existence? We're already lacking a Toronto aquarium, now we lose space too? In its place "more condos". It's becoming a refrain heard all too often in the city. Another story came out today about demolishing the historic and grand (former) headquarters of Hollinger International, again for condos. This time city planners are said to be stepping in. They'd better. The commercial space is one of Toronto's oldest surviving stone buildings, circa 1850. I guess the planetarium, which opened in 1967, just didn't have enough years under its belt to be considered saving. I would think, however, that an area zoned for education and culture would be a little harder to sell off. Considering the condos will go for anywhere from $3 - $50 million they'd better have made a mint for it and it better be put back into the system for all Torontionians to share.


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Blogger Max said...

I've walked across and around that steel skeleton a few times while spending my summer holidays in Toronto this summer. From what I could see, I wasn't really sure where the thing was going down the road. As you, I can only hope that something good will come of it. But we can only hope. To be honest, though, the ROM really needed a revival, and if this works out, it'll be the example pointed to by people for many years to come. If it doesn't, it'll be pointed out as an example of how not too do things. Either way, it'll make an impression.


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