Michael Lee-Chin Crystal
Daniel Libeskind

October 19, 2009 /

Toronto, Canada

libeskind_rom_1.jpgPhoto © Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum project set out to renovate ten new galleries in the existing historical building and creating an extension to the museum, now called the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

Photo © Sam Javanrouh

Approximately half of this building is devoted to gallery space, while the ground floor features a spacious new entrance and lobby as well as a new retail shop accessible directly from the street. Also included are three new restaurants.

This building tells a unique and a particular story which crystallizes the ROM's programmatic content and the singularity of the site. The Crystal transforms the character of ROM into an inspired atmosphere dedicated to the resurgence of the Museum as the dynamic center of Toronto.

/Daniel Libeskind

libeskind_rom_3.jpgPhoto © Royal Ontario Museum

libeskind_rom_4.jpgPhoto © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal derives its name from the building's five intersecting volumes, which are reminiscent of crystals. The intersection of two of the crystals, each of which is dedicated to new galleries, creates a void, known as the Spirit House.

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

Essentially a large atrium rising from below ground level to the fourth floor, and containing a number of criss-crossing bridges at various levels, the Spirit House is intended to be a place for visitors to reflect upon the exhibitions they have experienced in one of the gallery spaces before moving on to the next.

Photo © Sam Javanrouh

Photo © Sam Javanrouh

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

A fourth crystal, known as the Stair of Wonders, is dedicated to vertical circulation but also features exhibition vitrines at the landings.

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

A fifth crystal houses the major new restaurant which cantilevers over the existing West Wing galleries and provides panoramic views of downtown.

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

The intersecting spaces of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal create a variety of atriums at different levels, affording views into galleries and other spaces within the Museum.

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo © Royal Ontario Museum

The building envelope consists of two layers, a water-shedding skin covered by champagne-colored anodized aluminum extrusions that shimmer in the sunlight, and in the nighttime pick up the glow of the city. Approximately 20 percent of the facade is pierced by windows that provide views out of the building, but also into the building and the galleries, thereby furthering the link between the Museum and passers-by.

Photo © Sam Javanrouh

The program of the Royal Ontario Museum provided a wonderful opportunity for dramatic new architecture and the creation of a great public attraction. The centrality of the site intensifies the profound relationship between history and the new, between tradition and innovation. The historical buildings, complemented by forward-looking and bold architecture, form an ensemble which regenerates the urban significance of the Museum, solves the complex functional issues, and dramatically improves exhibitions, facilities, programming and amenities. The Crystal is an interlocking form which turns this important corner of Toronto into a luminous beacon - a veritable showcase of people, events and objects, transforming the entire museum complex into a world-class destination.

/Daniel Libeskind


Facts about Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

Total area:

18,600 m2 (186,000 ft2)

Joint Venture Partner:
Bregman+ Hamann Architects

Structural Engineer:

Arup, Halsall Associates

Landscape Architect:

Quinn Design Associates

Mechanical Engineer:

Arup, TMP Consulting Engineers

Electrical Engineer:

Arup, MBII

Heritage Consultant:


Acoustic Consultant:



Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Several photos are by Sam Javanrouh: daily dose of imagery.

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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