Have you ever been upset or disturbed by a change made to an historical building or structure? Do you ever get upset when a beautiful old piece of architecture is altered to give it a more modern look? Now, don’t get me wrong, I love new, modern looking buildings. They can make city skylines very striking. However, I believe that the beauty of old, historical buildings should be preserved whenever possible, and that’s why I was very upset when they began major renovations to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto in 2002.
The original ROM opened to the public in 1914 and was designed in the Italianate Neo-Romanesque style. In 1933 a new eastern wing facing Queen’s Park was added with a Byzantine-inspired rotunda and a new main entrance. According to Wikipedia, “the Queen’s Park facade of the expansion broke from the heavy Italianate style of the original structure. It was built in a neo-Byzantine style with rusticated stone, triple windows contained within recessed arches, and different-coloured stone arranged into a variety of patterns. This development from the Roman-inspired Italianate to a Byzantine influenced style reflected the historical development of Byzantine architecture from Roman architecture. Common among neo-Byzantine buildings in North America, the facade also contains elements of Gothic Revival in its relief carvings, gargoyles and statues. The ornate ceiling of the rotunda is covered predominantly in gold back-painted glass mosaic tiles, with coloured mosaic geometric patterns and images of real and mythical animals.” Here are some pictures of the old main entrance, inside and out. I wish I had taken one from across the street, so that you could see the building in its entirety, but at least these will give you an idea of how awe inspiring the original entrance was.
I loved visiting the ROM as a child and I still do. One of my favourite memories of the ROM was always the incredible front entrance, and now that is closed off in favour of the new entrance through the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, which is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminum sitting on top of a steel frame, I always find myself shaking my head in disgust that they actually consider this an improvement! It makes me sad to see the yellow brick and decorative mouldings of the original 1914 building hidden behind a mass of glass and metal. What do you think?