ROM Announces Transformative Project that Reimagines Museum for Future

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has announced the launch of OpenROM, a project that will see a new Bloor St. entrance and revitalize the main floor of the museum in hopes of making the space more accessible.

  

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Hennick Commons will feature a high-performance diagrid glass ceiling above the new cultural living room at ROM

On February 14, 2024, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) announced the launch of OpenROM, an initiative that will open the museum up more to the public and create a cultural and civic hub in the heart of the city.

OpenROM includes an architectural transformation of the museum’s main floor and a redesigned Bloor Street entrance. While work is set to begin in early 2024, the museum will remain open throughout the three-year construction period.

This revitalization project, funded by private philanthropy, has been catalyzed by a $50-million donation from the Hennick Family Foundation.

Water feature enwraps the heritage building at ROM

Following the completion of the construction period, OpenROM will introduce ongoing free access to the museum’s main floor which builds on the success of ROM’s summer-long Free Main Floor pilot program.

OpenROM’s expansive architectural design, year-round free admission to the museum’s entire main floor, and unlimited access to special programming, live performances, and hands-on activities, will make ROM a great gathering place for Ontarians.

Ticketing functions will be relocated and visitors will see displays and artifacts upon entering the lobby

“OpenROM is more than a physical transformation; it is a major leap forward in the museum’s ongoing evolution to becoming an even more welcoming and accessible space,” said Josh Basseches, ROM director and CEO. “This is an opportunity to truly throw the doors of the museum open, both literally and figuratively, and invite more people in to experience all ROM has to offer. We want people from down the block and around the world to feel like this is a place for them, where they are inspired and belong.”

Siamak Hariri, of Toronto-based firm Hariri Pontarini Architects, is leading the design. Building on the iconic Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, OpenROM will transform 86,000 square feet on the main floor as well as create 6,000 square feet of new gallery space on the second and third levels.

An oculus in the lobby provides views to the dinosaur galleries

“We’re going to re-introduce ROM to Toronto with a design that, in effect, turns the museum inside out,” said Siamak Hariri. “We’re going to bring daylight and views deep inside and create new connections with Bloor Street, within the ground floor public spaces and the galleries themselves.”

The project also includes enhancements to the exterior spaces. A new showcase water feature will wrap around the heritage façade at the corner of Bloor Street and Queen’s Park and this fountain will evolve with the seasons, changing from burbling water in the summer to cracked ice in the winter.

Bronze canopy extends over new Bloor St entrance beneath Michael-Lee Chin Crystal

Anchoring the exterior will be a newly designed and fully accessible Bloor Street entrance, which is set to be sheltered by a bronze canopy. The floor-to-ceiling glass entryway, which is the future Hennick Entrance, will offer pedestrians direct sightlines into the building and create a connection between the museum and the neighbourhood.

On the inside, visitors will enter a bright, open foyer, which will feature artworks and specimens from ROM’s collection, with an unobstructed view into the museum. An oculus, (a giant, circular portal in the ceiling)  will draw visitors’ eyes upwards and bathe the entryway in light while also offering a view of the dinosaur galleries above.

The foyer will lead into the new heart of the museum: Hennick Commons, a sunlit four-storey atrium capped with a sweeping, high-performance diagrid glass ceiling. Visitors will encounter a new, 2,400-square-foot forum there where audiences may enjoy regular performances, programs, and hands-on experiences.

Early sketch by Siamak Hariri

Adjacent to the forum will be a grand multi-level, lily pad staircase, offering three accessible overlook platforms for surveying the museum and knit together old and new wings of the building in hopes of improving mobility.

ROM’s multi-year renewal plan began with the reopening of the Weston Entrance on Queen’s Park in 2017. Two years later in 2019, ROM introduced a new public outdoor space with the unveiling of the Helga and Mike Schmidt Performance Terrace and the Reed Family Plaza on Bloor Street.

Level one floorplan

Most recently, in 2021, the museum opened the Willner Madge Gallery, Dawn of Life – the first major permanent gallery of its kind.

“The next in a series of bold architectural initiatives, OpenROM will elevate the museum’s role as a vital Toronto landmark, recognized as Canada’s preeminent museum and one of the world’s great cultural institutions,” said Basseches.