i (finally) visit the rom

When my mom was here in early July, we were supposed to see "Ancient Peru Unearthed" at the ROM, but she had (and still has) an injured ankle, and we couldn't go. I went by myself yesterday, which is actually my favourite way to take in a museum.

As you know, I loved the design of the new addition to the ROM, and felt Torontonian attitudes towards it were closed-minded and provincial - although less so than I thought. It wasn't that people didn't like it. It's that they seemed unwilling to consider it on its own terms. All I was hearing was a kind of "ewwww... it's different," a rejection of anything unusual, only because it's unusual. At that time, I hadn't yet seen the completed work in person, only in photographs. So here's my take.

I love the way new building explodes out of the old one. I love the way the old and new are completely different, and don't appear to "go together," which is apparently a source of discomfort for many people. I love the way the new structure enlivens the mostly drab, poured-concrete of Bloor Street, the way it bursts out between the original ROM building and the Royal Conservatory of Music next door. I love the crystal shape, the way it appears to be growing.

I dislike the paneled metal skin. Many people have already said this, and I agree. The cut-outs of transparent glass show what the whole building, or at least most of it, could have looked like. The effect would have been dazzling. Instead, it looks like the crystal is clad in aluminum siding.

That's a real disappointment. It greatly detracts from what could have been a spectacular building.

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The ROM itself is a wonderful museum, light and airy, and beautifully curated. "Ancient Peru Unearthed" was small, but good. It brought back a flood of memories of our trip last spring.

The exhibit is about the North Coast culture of Sican. We didn't go to Sican, but we spent a remarkable day exploring a very similar, nearby culture called Sipan. The exhibit also referred to the other North Coast cultures we explored, precursors of Sican and Sipan, the Moche, the Chimu. But even without this connection I feel, the gold work and what it reveals are fascinating.

I wandered through some Egyptian and Greek galleries which seemed very good. I love hieroglyphics and there were plenty to look at. Also on the writing theme, I saw a small exhibit on early typewriters. I love old machines, especially the ornate Victorian kind. I've been writing on a keyboard since I'm 12, and have been earning my living through a keyboard most of my adult life, so that was a natural for me.

The ROM has a wonderful market cafe. Taking in a museum by myself, and having lunch there, is one of my favourite little pleasures. I see there's also a more upscale restaurant, designed for the interior of the crystal. I think we'll have to go there one day, as I can't resist such an elegant setting.

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Here are two terrific photos of the ROM crystal, showing it to great effect, courtesy of Daily Dose of Imagery.


James said...

I'm one of the ones who complained about the cladding. It's a standard part of Liebeskind's schtick (the Jewish Museum has a similar surface), but you're completely right about how the whole "Crystal" idea shoots itself in the foot by not actually being crystal-like.

L-girl said...

I'm one of the ones who complained about the cladding.

I remember your saying that.

how the whole "Crystal" idea shoots itself in the foot by not actually being crystal-like

And the textural look of the metal is so cheap. That's why it reminds me of siding.

Rositta said...

Sorry, I looked at it many times from different angles, drive by a lot but can't get myself to like it. Closed minded, maybe but remember what happened when the CN tower got covered in ice this winter? Could this building become a hazard too? Nice blog...ciao

L-girl said...

Each to her own. As I said, close-minded wasn't about liking it or not, it was about giving it a chance. (Although driving by is not the way to experience a building - but you didn't say that's all you had done.)

As far as falling ice, as I understand it that had to do with the concrete and the height of the CN Tower. Why that would apply to the ROM and not to, say, any of the much taller buildings in Toronto, I have no idea.

Daniel wbc said...

This building reminds me of the Central downtown Seattle Public Library. It is surrounded by a steel and glass "curtain" with very little of the glass blocked, which is what I think you were saying that you wished for the museum.

Here's a link to a photo in wikipedia: