Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum

July 12, 2005 13:00 ET

Steel structure completed for the ROM's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

Final major steel beam, signed by ROM workers and donors, lifted into place at a Topping Off Ceremony on July 12, 2005. Attention: Arts/Entertainment Editor, Assignment Editor, News Editor, Photo Editor, Travel/Tourism Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - July 12, 2005) - Today, the Royal Ontario Museum's (ROM) $211-million Renaissance ROM expansion project reached an important milestone as the framework of one of Canada's most complex steel structures, the Museum's new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal building, was completed. During a Topping Off Ceremony on Tuesday, July 12, 2005, William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO, Daniel Libeskind, lead architect, and Walter Koppelaar, President of Walters Inc. signed the final major structural steel beam, already bearing the signatures of the steelworkers, construction workers, project engineers, Museum staff and volunteers, and major donors to the Renaissance ROM project.

Topping Off ceremonies are historical traditions in construction projects, celebrating the completion of the structure of a building. The signed final beam, decorated with the flags of Canada, Ontario, Renaissance ROM, Walters Inc., Vanbots Construction Corp., Local 721 Iron Workers, and an evergreen tree to mark an accident-free construction site, was hoisted into position at a height of about 70 feet, directly over what will become the main entrance to the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal on Bloor Street West.

"The completion of the steel structure would not have been possible without the hard work of many individuals and continued community support," said William Thorsell. "Not only are we one step closer to the opening of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, scheduled to open next summer, but we have reached a significant moment in Canadian architecture. The contemporary Crystal building will redefine the corner of Bloor and Queen's Park and become the heart of Toronto's cultural life."

"I am thrilled to be here today to join the people of Toronto in celebrating this momentous occasion," said Daniel Libeskind, lead architect. "I am very proud to be associated with the dedicated team that has brought the ROM's expansion project to this visible milestone. As the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal moves towards completion, the ROM will take its place at the forefront of the international museum community."

Since breaking ground on May 28, 2003, the 70 by 80 metre site has become the centre of one of the most challenging construction jobs under way in North America. The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is situated at the north end of the Museum facing Bloor Street West, nestled between the Museum's heritage buildings -- Philosophers' Walk wing (built in 1914) to the west and the centre block and the Queen's Park building to be named after the Weston Family (built in 1933) to the south and east. The Crystal comprises five unique crystalline forms that come together to form the entire Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and give an extraordinary new outline of the ROM.

This was no simple task, explained Walter Koppelaar, President of Walters Inc. of Hamilton, the steel fabricators and erectors for the new addition. "The complexity of the Libeskind-designed building and the confined space in which it was built made this a challenging and rewarding experience. Most construction contracts involve 90-degree corners and perpendicular surfaces. The ROM's expansion pushed the limits of steel fabrication and construction."

Due to the confined size of the construction site, materials from Walters Inc. could not arrive all at once. The steel beams, each unique and ranging from one metre to 25 metres in length, arrived in shipments of about 25 tonnes and were typically onsite for only a day prior to their installation. Construction workers and project engineers used laptops and 3-D illustrations to visualize how the steel shapes fit together. An 80-metre crane, erected at the centre of the site, lifted the beams, one by one, to a specific angle, with a three- or four -millimetre tolerance creating the complicated angle joints, sloped walls, and gallery ceilings, some that rise to almost 40 metres.

From the base of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal eight metres below grade, the first visible shape to take form was the Stair of Wonders. Over the next two years, the framework rose in numerous angles, reaching its highest peak at 36.5 metres. The northernmost tip of the Crystal will overhang the Bloor Street West sidewalk four stories above ground. Approximately 2,800 tonnes of steel, 3,000 steel pieces, 38 tonnes of bolts, and 9,000 cubic metres of concrete were used to complete the Crystal's structure. During peak construction periods, around 150 steel and construction workers were onsite, up to 30 working on the steel structure. Remarkably, only 20 working days were lost due to bad weather through two winters of construction.

This summer, the next stage of construction continues with fireproofing the steel beams, installing metal decks and concrete floors, and conducting cladding surveys. The stair treads of the Stair of Wonders will be added at the end of this summer and the first cladding will be placed in the fall. The extruded aluminum cladding, which will hang from the steel structure, will cover 75 per cent of the building; the remaining 25 per cent of the outside walls will be glass. The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is scheduled to open to the public during summer of 2006.

As the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal building comes to life, the renovation and installation continues in the new and reconceived galleries in the ROM's heritage buildings. The first of these galleries, including a new wing devoted to galleries of China, Japan, and Korea and a new gallery for Canadian First Peoples, will open in the Museum's heritage buildings in December 2005.

For more information on Renaissance ROM, please visit

Editors Note: A photo for this release will be available on the CP picture wire via PR Direct.

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