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When two worlds collide, Toronto style

23 July 2012 No Comment

The Royal Ontario Museum is Canada’s largest museum of world culture and natural history, though for those interested in architecture, the most fascinating aspect of the museum is likely to be the building itself. Since it was founded in 1912, it has undergone several alterations which have brought together several different eras of architectural style.


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The original building was designed by Toronto architects, Frank Darling and John A. Pearson and is Italianate Neo-Romanesque, a style which was popular throughout North America until around the 1870s. The heavy structure features segmented arched windows and decorative eave brackets.

The museum remained unchanged until 1933, when Alfred. H. Chapman and James Oxley designed a new east wing. This included an elaborate art deco style rotunda bearing the words, ‘That all men may know His work’.

Combining old with new with a striking effect


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The most revolutionary change to the building happened in 2007, when Daniel Libeskind’s ‘The Crystal’ was added as a new main entrance.


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The Deconstructivist crystalline form is clad in 75% aluminium and 25% glass and its primary aim is to create openness and accessibility to the museum by blurring the lines between the public area of the street and the more private interior of the galleries.


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Contrast in architectural styles

It brings a truly modern and almost futuristic element to the museum, making the contrast in architectural styles even more prominent.


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A successful mix of old and new?


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As you might imagine, The Crystal has divided public opinion. Some have described the structure as oppressive and angry, and have even gone so far as to rank it as one of the ten ugliest buildings in the world. Of course, others have expressed their appreciation for The Crystal.


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Regardless of personal opinion, it’s undeniable that the Royal Ontario Museum is fascinating and a real must-see for those interested in the world of architecture.

Author: Caroline Gough    Date Written: 22 July 2012

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