The building is almost universally loathed in the Toronto area. I can only imagine what Canadians elsewhere, who already roll their eyes at Canada's largest city, think of it. Torontonians can't sneer loudly enough. They don't simply dislike it. They hate it. They're outraged.
There's little doubt that the new ROM addition is a fabulous building. It may end up being a Great Building.
But it's different, and most people don't like different. Bring us the same old thing, please. Bring us the comfortable. Don't move our minds in new directions. Don't expand our horizons.
Christopher Hume, urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote an excellent piece about this reaction, placing it in context of critiques of new buildings everywhere, always: "Build It, And They Will Shun".
Next Saturday, when Daniel Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, finally opens, a wave of anger and contempt will wash over Toronto. It has already started.
Shock and outrage will spew from the pages of newspapers, radio talkshows and blogs.
Never will people have beheld a building so ugly, architecture so appalling, design so bad – or such cheap-looking aluminium cladding this side of a post-war Scarborough semi.
You can see it now, the shaking of heads, rolling of eyeballs, wringing of hands, the frothing, spluttering and snorting.
It won't be pretty.
But if they know as much about history as they should, Libeskind and his clients at the ROM will be thrilled. This has been the reaction to new architecture since time immemorial.
The ROM is in good company. The list of buildings that were hated when they were first built includes the Eiffel Tower, Rockefeller Center and the Parthenon. The Parthenon, for godssake! Considered by many to be the perfect classical building. Toronto buildings that were once hated include BCE Place and the Sharp Centre at the Ontario College of Art, two of Toronto's great spaces.
I've been reading letters to the Star about the Crystal, decrying the heap of junk, the pile of garbage, the eyesore, the horror, oh the humanity. Soon after moving here, I took a little walking tour of downtown Toronto with someone I met through this blog. As we passed the ROM, I mentioned it was exciting that Toronto had several new good buildings going up, including the new museum additions by Frank Gehry and Libeskind. She wrinkled her nose: "No one here likes that thing." I know I'll sound like a New York snob, but I thought to myself, Hayseed.
Art is more than "I like that" and "I don't like that". A list of great books is not the same as a list of your favourite books. All the music you like isn't great, and all great music isn't to your taste. This is true for all of us, and for all art forms, including architecture.
Torontonians: aim higher. You complain that Toronto is not considered a world-class city; you wonder if it will ever stand beside New York, London, Paris and the other great cities of the world. Then a top architect builds you a great building and you are too philistine to appreciate it.