Friday, May 9, 2008

The crystal and the horse

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is an impressively futuristic addition to the venerable and beloved Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street and Avenue Road in Toronto. Here it is, as it looks from Bloor Street looking east.

It was designed by Daniel Libeskind, who also did the much more intimidating Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg, Berlin. This is a view of the latter:

Perhaps you notice some similarities.

The ROM in Toronto is, as you can see, a much more cheerful building -- as it should be, since it has been a weekend destination for many generations of chattering school children. Libeskind's crystal looks as if the old building had been dipped in a supersaturated solution of sugar, and a crystal has grown around it.

Actually it is a free-standing building, and doesn't even touch the original. Its marvelous aesthetic qualities derive in part from its being such a feat of engineering.

As you walk south along Philosophers' Way, which runs along the west side of the building, you lose sight of the main bulk of the crystal, and this is what you see:

A corner of the crystal just overtopping the roof line of the old building. From the south, it looks like this:

From here it doesn't look so much like a crystal, but more like a head-like form with its throat resting on the roof line, with the chin hanging over. It reminds me a lot of this . . .

. . . the great horse from the Moon's chariot, with its chin overhanging the east pediment of the Parthenon.

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