Dissing Libeskind Crystal is so 2007

ROM skipping PR rebuttal shows Toronto's growing up


Another architecture critic has taken the piss out of Daniel Libeskind‘s ROM crystal. So 2007.

The latest: Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post, declaring the glass and aluminum clad addition to the museum the ugliest example of modern architecture of the last decade.

The Crystal, Kennicott writes, “surpasses the ugliness of bland functional buildings by being both ugly and useless.”

A little harsh, I think. This time, though, the ROM didn’t feel compelled to issue a release quoting some other architectural genius or travel writer saying what an marvel the Crystal is. A good thing. Maybe it’s a sign the ROM, maybe even Toronto, is growing up.

For a while there, any criticism of the Crystal, it seemed, had to be met with some form of rebuttal from the ROM. The museum’s PR folk were beginning to look a little defensive about the Crystal.

Certainly, the urge to justify blowing $250 million on a structure that’s been described by Kennicott as “irrational… baffling” and choke full of “dead spaces,” can be hard to resist.

But there’s no need. Not all architecture has to be successful (ie: in the traditional sense) to be celebrated. Sheer architectural daring is worth commending, too. And that’s what the Crystal is – a statement structure that tells the world Toronto has arrived, or at least, is on the way there (hopefully).

Would we have preferred a more subdued addition to the ROM in retrospect? I’ll let you chew on that one, but I somehow doubt it. More to the point, can we envision anything but the Crystal there now?

There are more than a few so-called architectural failures in this city that have grown on us over the years, among them dozens of examples of the modern buildings of the 1950s that we all sniffed at until the wrecking balll was rolled in to make room for supposedly bigger and better things.

I’m thinking the Bata Shoe headquarters. Even some of the hated Brutalist architecture in the city has taken on a favoured place among cityscape aficionados. Check the old Sears building on Jarvis.

And what about that glorified antenna pointing skyward known as the CN Tower?

The symbol ot T.O.’s 70s coming of age, wasn’t exactly well received. A stunning feat of engineering, yes. But bland as hell to look at.

Over time, though, it now seems like a seamless part of the skyline and not so concretely depressing, thanks in part to some sprucing of the exterior. As for those plans to stick an aquarium at the base, well that’s another story, but back to the ROM…

I quite like the fact that it seems to explode from out of nowhere onto the street. And the fact its functionality was sacrificed some for pure shock value, the dead spaces be damned. Part of the wonder of the Crystal is that it’s (almost) completely irrational, which in itself makes it unlike any other building in the city.

Some call it ugly. But give it time. [rssbreak]

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