The Royal Ontario Museum project set out to renovate ten new galleries in the existing historical building and creating an extension to the museum, now called the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.Approximately half of this building is devoted to gallery space, while the ground floor features a spacious new entrance and lobby as well as a new retail shop accessible directly from the street. Also included are three new restaurants.
This building tells a unique and a particular story which crystallizes the ROM's programmatic content and the singularity of the site. The Crystal transforms the character of ROM into an inspired atmosphere dedicated to the resurgence of the Museum as the dynamic center of Toronto.
The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal derives its name from the building's five intersecting volumes, which are reminiscent of crystals. The intersection of two of the crystals, each of which is dedicated to new galleries, creates a void, known as the Spirit House.
Essentially a large atrium rising from below ground level to the fourth floor, and containing a number of criss-crossing bridges at various levels, the Spirit House is intended to be a place for visitors to reflect upon the exhibitions they have experienced in one of the gallery spaces before moving on to the next.
The building envelope consists of two layers, a water-shedding skin covered by champagne-colored anodized aluminum extrusions that shimmer in the sunlight, and in the nighttime pick up the glow of the city. Approximately 20 percent of the facade is pierced by windows that provide views out of the building, but also into the building and the galleries, thereby furthering the link between the Museum and passers-by.
The program of the Royal Ontario Museum provided a wonderful opportunity for dramatic new architecture and the creation of a great public attraction. The centrality of the site intensifies the profound relationship between history and the new, between tradition and innovation. The historical buildings, complemented by forward-looking and bold architecture, form an ensemble which regenerates the urban significance of the Museum, solves the complex functional issues, and dramatically improves exhibitions, facilities, programming and amenities. The Crystal is an interlocking form which turns this important corner of Toronto into a luminous beacon - a veritable showcase of people, events and objects, transforming the entire museum complex into a world-class destination.