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ROM Opens Michael Lee-Chin Crystal
The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, viewed from the northeast. Image: finest-images, © ROM 2006. All rights reserved.

TORONTO, ONTARIO.- At sunset on Saturday, June 2, 2007, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)— Canada ’s largest museum of natural history and world cultures—will hold the Architectural Opening and Building Dedication for the Museum’s new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. The dramatic new wing will showcase seven spectacular collection galleries on four floors, two special exhibition spaces, new retail and dining facilities, and the ROM’s new main entrance. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, the facility is named in honor of businessperson, philanthropist, and member of the ROM Board of Governors Michael Lee-Chin, whose lead donation of $30 million in April 2003 launched the Museum’s “Renaissance ROM” expansion project. Following the dedication ceremony, the Lee-Chin Crystal will open to the public for the first time.

ROM Director and CEO William Thorsell states, “It is difficult to imagine a more eloquent symbol of the ROM’s growth and revitalization than Daniel Libeskind’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. With its dynamic form, expansive public areas, and superb gallery spaces, the building is at once inspiring and practical. It will provide Toronto residents and visitors with a place for contemplation, learning, and fun. The Royal Ontario Museum is deeply grateful to Michael Lee-Chin for making this superb building possible.”

Daniel Libeskind notes, “The Lee-Chin Crystal—designed in close collaboration with the Museum—is intended to transform the ROM into an inspired atmosphere that will promote the resurgence of the Museum as the dynamic center of Toronto . The foundation of virtually all of my work is a firm belief in culture as the driving force behind vital, creative cities and, indeed, nations. It is my hope that the Lee-Chin Crystal, as well as the other components of Renaissance ROM, will become a focal point for the city and people of Toronto , a place of wonder and joy.”

The June 2 festivities will be celebrated on ROM’s Bloor Street Plaza , a newly designed, dynamic public space in front of the Lee-Chin Crystal. The celebration will include a 75-minute live concert beginning at sundown and culminating in the illumination of the building’s striking façade. Following this, the doors of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal will open, with free admission provided by timed tickets until 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 3.

From this time through June 10, enthusiasts of contemporary design will have the opportunity to experience Mr. Libeskind’s architecture in its purest form, prior to installation of the seven collection galleries. On June 11, the gallery floors will temporarily close for installation, but the special exhibitions and public amenities will remain open.

The June 2 Architectural Opening and Building Dedication is the first of many festive events occurring during the ROM’s 2007–2008 season. Over subsequent months, the completion of each of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal’s seven permanent galleries—the Jim and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs; the Ajmera Family Gallery of the Age of Mammals; the Gallery of Africa, the Americas, and Asia Pacific; the Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery; the Gallery of the Middle East; the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume; and the Institute for Contemporary Culture—will be marked by a special celebration. These will conclude in spring 2008, with a special public celebration of the completely installed Lee-Chin Crystal.

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

Located at one of Canada ’s most important urban intersections, the ROM’s new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal will be the distinctive new symbol of Toronto for the twenty-first century, forming the hub of a renewed cultural district downtown. At the heart of its diverse community, this vibrant, light-filled structure transforms the streetscape with a stunningly bold urban gesture, establishing the ROM as the country’s premier cultural and social destination for residents and tourists alike.

The Lee-Chin Crystal comprises five interlocking, self-supporting prismatic structures that interface with the historic buildings that embrace it. With hardly a right angle anywhere, its sloping walls create unique interior spaces with soaring volumes and such ingenious details as the “Spirit House,” a void at the heart of the building that is traversed by criss-crossing bridges. Slashing windows fill the rooms with natural light and create uniquely-framed views of the cityscapes outside. The ROM’s historic façades are exposed in the interior in large and small sections, while the sleek, contemporary walls form dramatic backdrops for the historic artifacts. Museum circulation is vastly improved through the inclusion of the “Stair of Wonders,” a cabinet of curiosities in itself, as well as elevators and links into ROM’s historic wings.

When complete, the 175,000-square-foot, aluminum-and-glass-covered Michael Lee-Chin Crystal will house seven permanent galleries overlooking Bloor Street West . It also contains a graceful new main entrance and lobby, the soaring four-story interior Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court, the sizeable new ROM Museum Store, the attractive fine dining destination Crystal Five Restaurant Lounge (opening late June 2007), and Canada’s largest space for international exhibitions — Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall — among other features.

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is the centerpiece of the Museum’s $250-million expansion and renovation project known as “Renaissance ROM. ” In addition to the spectacular Lee-Chin Crystal, this important project includes the renovation of some seventy-five percent of the ROM’s historic 1914 and 1933 buildings, making this Canada’s largest heritage restoration project today. By 2009, Renaissance ROM will have created an additional ten galleries inside the historic buildings. The entire development has been designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind, in a joint partnership with Bregman + Hamann Architects, of Toronto.

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