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2006 04 02
Building the ROM Crystal - Status 23
The ROM Crystal continues its slow and surprisingly graceful - for a major construction project - evolution. The exterior cladding is now being added. I cycled down Bloor Street late yesterday afternoon for the first time in a while and was surprised by my visceral first impression of the surface. It's lead. For a building called a "crystal" that might seem like a pejorative observation. Stay with me and keep an open mind while I continue.
From the beginning, the crystal reference generated two distinct expectations: The first was of a glass-like transparency and the second a crystalline physical shape. Both the architect and the ROM soon made public pronouncements that the skin was not going to be all glass. Some critics were disappointed but others, more familiar with the tectonic constraints of building, championed the crystal's shape as an inviting contrast to the ROM's existing formality.
I'm in the second camp because of the museum's curatorial needs - not all display spaces need that much light. So, the impression of looking at a mostly opaque cladding is not too surprising in that context. Plus, there's a sense of promise because the crystal does not reveal its contents in one glance. There's also another reason to appreciate the "lead" reference. Toronto's cultural renaissance is a multi-generation process that will never truly end. In many ways it is a story about taking some base elements - like community, creativity, audiences, education, government, money, strategy, influence - and combining them in just the right way to achieve an alchemic conversion: Turning lead into gold.

One of our readers pointed out that this Lead coloured material is not the final surface. Another voiced the opinion that my alchemy metaphor sucks. Let's blame it on today's time change. Editor

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 04/02 at 01:43 PM

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