The museum is currently undergoing a major renovation and expansion project, dubbed Renaissance ROM. The centrepiece is the recently-opened Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and Bregman + Hamann Architects; installation of exhibits in the addition will continue over a period of months. Existing galleries and buildings are also being modified. Renovated galleries in the historic buildings will reopen in stages, and all work is scheduled to be completed by 2010. The final cost of the project will be $270 million CAD.
The Libeskind design, selected from among 50 entrants in an international competition, saw the award winning Terrace Galleries torn down and replaced with a Deconstructivist crystalline-form clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminium. The building is named after Michae Lee-Chin, who donated $30 million towards its construction. It houses the new main entrance to the museum, a gift shop, a restaurant (C5 Restaurant and Lounge), a cafeteria (Food Studio), seven additional galleries and Canada's largest temporary exhibition hall in the lower level.
The Crystal's canted walls do not touch the sides of the existing heritage buildings, save for where pedestrian crossing occurs and to close the envelope between the new form and the existing walls. Although designed to conform to existing height restrictions and maintain sight lines along Bloor Street, the Crystal, at certain points, cantilevers over the setback and into the street allowance.
The building's design is similar to some of Libeskind's other works, notably the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre, and the Fredric C. Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum. The steel framework was manufactured and assembled by Walters Inc. of Hamilton, Ontario. The extruded anodized aluminium cladding was fabricated by Josef Gartner in Germany, the only company in the world that can produce the material. The company also provided the titanium cladding for Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
The overall aim of the Crystal is to provide openness and accessibility. It seeks to blur the lines between the public area of the street and the more private area of the museum. The goal is to act as an open threshold where people as well as artifacts animate the spaces. The main lobby is a three-story high atrium, named the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court. The lobby is overlooked by balconies and flanked by the J.P. Driscoll Family Stair of Wonders and the Spirit House, an interstitial space formed by the intersection of the east and west crystals, intended as a space of emotional and physical diversion.
Existing parts of the museum are also being renovated. Galleries will be made larger, windows uncovered, and the original early-20th-century architecture made more prominent. The exteriors of the heritage buildings are to be cleaned and restored. The restoration of the 1914 and 1933 buildings is currently the largest heritage project underway in Canada.
The first phase of the Renaissance ROM project opened to the public on December 26, 2005, including the newly-restored Rotunda with reproductions of the original oak doors, a restored axial view from the Rotunda west through to windows onto Philosophers' Walk, and a ten renovated galleries comprising a total of 90,000 square feet. This phase of gallery re-openings includes exhibits featuring the art and history of Japan, China, Korea, and of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Opened on June 1, 2007, by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, the Architectural Opening of the "Michael Lee-Chin Crystal" was controversial. Public opinion was divided about the merits of its angular design. On its opening, Globe and Mail architecture critic Lisa Rochon complained that "the new ROM rages at the world," calling it oppressive, angsty, and hellish, while others (perhaps championed by the architecture critic at the competing Toronto Star, Christopher Hume) hailed it as a monument. The project also experienced budget and construction time over-runs, and drew comparisons to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao for using so-called "starchitecture" to attract tourism.
October 2007, the Lee-Chin Crystal was reported to have suffered from water leakage. This caused concerns regarding the building's resilience to weather, especially in the face of the new structure's proximate first winter. Although a two-layer cladding system was incorporated into the design of the Crystal, intended to prevent the formation of dangerous snow loads on the structure, past architectural creations of Daniel Libeskind, including the Denver Art Museum, have suffered from weather-related complications.
Installation of the permanent galleries of the Lee-Chin Crystal began mid-June 2007, after a ten-day period when all the empty gallery spaces were open to the public.
(source: Wikipedia.. of course.. :p)