Michael Lee-Chin Crystal Cited as Architectural Marvel

A new Eyewitness Travel book has recognized Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum as one of six buildings to rival Australia’s Sydney Opera House. The book, Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives, names the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) Michael Lee- Chin Crystal, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, as one of the world’s architectural marvels and one of six modern buildings to rival Australia’s Sydney Opera House.

Prefaced by famed American author Bill Bryson and published in fall 2009 by Dorling Kindersley (DK) as part of its Eyewitness series, the book praises the highly successful Renaissance ROM project, the Museum’s renovation and expansion project, and Libeskind’s design. It states “with the recent Renaissance Royal Ontario Museum project wowing critics all over the world, it is the museum’s ability to reinvent itself that has impressed connoisseurs of architecture.” The other modern buildings mentioned include Neue Zollof in Germany, Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, 30 St. Mary Axe (The Gherkin) in the UK, Turning Torso in Sweden and Casa da Música in Portugal.

“This massive renovation and expansion initiative is highlighted by the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, a new angular facing designed by the highly respected architect Daniel Libeskind. By stepping into the 21st century with such a wonderful renovation, the museum is a shining example of how modern architecture can reinterpret and reinvigorate even the oldest of buildings,” the book states. The ROM’s inclusion in this publication follows the entry of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2008 list of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

“Daniel Libeskind’s work at the ROM constitutes a radical shift in the status quo from most of the architecture we know. It presents a new concept of form and space, a new face of beauty in the field, a new presence in the cityscape. Many people are thrilled to experience it, as we see in a 60 per cent increase in ROM attendance since its completion, and the vitality it has brought to Toronto’s precinct of Bloor Street and Avenue Road. The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal has won accolades around the world for its design and effectiveness for this Museum in the contemporary age. Great cities must have the power to originate, and Toronto has done so with the arresting work of Libeskind at the ROM,” said William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO.


Inspired by the ROM’s gem and mineral collection, Daniel Libeskind sketched the initial concept on paper napkins while attending a family wedding at the ROM. The design was quickly dubbed the ‘crystal’ because of its crystalline shape. “Why should one expect the new addition to the ROM to be ‘business as usual’? Architecture in our time is no longer an introvert’s business. On the contrary, the creation of communicative, stunning and unexpected architecture signals a bold re-awakening of the civic life of the museum and the city,” said Daniel Libeskind.

Considered to be one of the most challenging construction projects in North America for its engineering complexity and innovative methods, the Lee-Chin Crystal is composed of five interlocking, self-supporting prismatic structures that co-exist but are not attached to the original ROM building, except for the bridges that link them. The exterior is 25 per cent glass and 75 per cent extruded-brushed, aluminum-cladding strips in a warm silver colour. The steel beams, each unique in its design and manufacture and ranging from 1 to 25 metres in length, were lifted one by one to their specific angle, creating complicated angle joints, sloped walls, and gallery ceilings. Approximately 3,500 tons of steel and 38 tons of bolts were used to create the skeleton, and roughly 9,000 cubic metres of concrete were poured.

The book Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives is published worldwide and available for purchase at bookstores across Canada.