The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM is a very big museum, — one of the largest in North America and among the world's leading museums of natural history and world cultures, attracting over 1 million visitors annually — and it's impossible to see it all in a single visit.
The museum contains notable collections of dinosaur, minerals and meteorites as well as an extensive collection of design and fine arts, including clothing, interior, and product design, especially Art Deco. People have been visiting it since it opened in 1914 to see over six million objects in its collections and 40 galleries of art, archaeology and natural science.
Four giant carved totem poles rise in the centre of the stairwells; the largest is over 80 feet tall. The museums's hands-on Biodiversity gallery gives families an interactive experience about the interdependence of people, animals and plants.
Established in April 1912 and opened 2 years later, the museum maintained close relations with the University of Toronto throughout its history, sharing expertise and resources. The ROM was originally under the university's direct control and management until 1968, when it became an independent institution. Today, it is Canada's largest field-research institution, with activities spanning the globe.
Designed by Toronto architects, the architectural style of the original building is Italianate Neo-Romanesque. The structure is heavily massed and punctuated by rounded and segmented arched windows with heavy surrounds and hood moldings Other features include applied decorative eave brackets, quoins (masonry blocks at the corner of a wall) and cornices (horizontal decorative moldings).
Beginning in 2002, the museum underwent a major renovation and expansion project dubbed as Renaissance ROM. The Provincial and Federal governments, both supported this venture and contributed $60 million towards completion. The campaign aimed to not only raise annual visitor attendance from 750,000 to over a million and a half, but to generate additional funding opportunities to support the museum's research, conservation, galleries, and educational public programs.
The centerpiece of the project, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, (named after its benefactor who gave $30 million towards completion) was a major addition to the building's original framework. The structure was created by architect Daniel Libeskind whose design was selected from among 50 finalists in an international competition. Libeskind is known for being selected to be the master plan architect to oversee the rebuilding of the NYC World Trade Center. The 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.
The design saw the Terrace Galleries torn down and replaced with a desconstructivist (see below) crystalline-form structure, named after Michael Lee-Chin who donated $30 million towards its construction. Existing galleries and buildings were also upgraded, along with the installation of multiple new exhibits over a period of months. The first phase of the Renaissance ROM project, the Ten Renovated Galleries in the Historic Buildings, opened to the public on 26 December 2005. The Architectural Opening for the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, however, took place years later in June 2007. The final cost of the project was about $270 million (Canadian).
Deconstructivism is a development of postmodern architecture that began in the late 1980s and is characterized by fragmentation, manipulating a structure's surface or skin, and non-rectilinear shapes which appear to distort and dislocate elements of architecture, such as structure. The finished visual appearance of buildings that exhibit deconstructionist "styles" is characterized by unpredictability and controlled chaos. An earlier post on the Absolute Towers (Marilyn in Mississauga) is another example of this style.