Museums in Toronto & Kansas City Generate Major Buzz

The Royal Ontario Museum (known as the ROM by natives) is Toronto’s archaeological and historical museum that has a fantastic collection of Chinese art and dinosaur fossils.

In the midst of the University of Toronto campus, the ROM was a favorite place of mine to wander and spend time. Now the new $270 million addition by Daniel Libeskind has made the museum an international sensation–Liebeskind you’ll remember was the architect that was originally chosen for the WTC site, which as become a fiasco.

This structure began a small email discussion among some of my art-conscious friends. One called it a “wannabe building” (ouch!). And added, “Toronto is turning into a Chinese city, that is trying real hard to be a world capital. It may get there, but not with an immense amount of credibility.”

Another sarcastically chimed in “straight walls … ah, what a luxury!”

The only one who actually saw the newly unveiled wing reported back:

The short version is that it’s better than expected inside, although with a fair amount of Libeskind ick…the “Spirit House”–a full height space between the four galllery floors, crossed by the walkways connecting the galleries–[is where] you’re suppposed to sit and meditate, while gazing up…I always thought people went to the ROM because they had dinosaur obsessed 9 year olds, not to meditate. The outside looks crappy — like a collapsing shed.

The Toronto Star‘s Chirstopher Hume, who I read a lot growing up, is more optimistic about the results (article). Two blogs are thrilled with the result…the Torontoist is obsessed with the building (proof) and Architechnophilia gives it a big thumbs up.

Here are some images from the opening weekend. And my favorite image from a great Toronto photo blog, Daily Dose of Imagery. Here is a post about the opening ceremony.

In Kansas City, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art added an addition of their own to their classical building and chose the brilliant and lesser known architect, Steven Holl, to do the honors. Known for its high-quality and finely selected collection, the Nelson-Atkins demonstrates that it continues to be a bastion of refined taste.

The new addition will house the museum’s collections of contemporary and African art and feature new galleries for rotating exhibitions of photography.

Check out The New Yorker‘s wonderful slideshow of the building, photographed by David S. Allee (link). The venerable New York periodical clarifies, “The building consists of five freestanding structures—or lenses, as Holl calls them—cascading down one side of the museum’s sloping lawn and linked underground by a series of galleries.”

Critic Paul Goldberger has some very kind words for the structure:

…[it] is not just Holl’s finest by far but also one of the best museums of the last generation. Its boldness is no surprise, but, in addition, it is laudably functional, with a clear layout, handsome and logically designed galleries, and a suffusion of natural light. Furthermore, Holl’s five glass structures, punctuating the hill, don’t mock the old building as you might expect; they dance before it and engage it.” (source)

Here are some great images at Designboom that show some interior shots, which aren’t as awe-inspiring as the exterior (link). Time Magazine also talks about it here.

It’s reassuring that museums are continuing to commission buildings that thrill.

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