ROM: A Museum Addition with Much To Say

Institutions grow out of their historic buildings as their functions and purposes change and time progresses. They will need new space. Architects design the latest trends, looking to make a mark on the world. Preservationists seek to find common ground and conversation between historic buildings and architects. Yet, architecture – old and new – remains subjective. The Royal Ontario Museum (“ROM”) in Toronto, Canada is a prime case study for this discussion.

Let’s start here:

The Royal Ontario Museum  (

The Royal Ontario Museum (“ROM”) in Toronto, Canada.

What is that?, you might ask. That is the 1912 Royal Ontario Museum building with the 2007 “Crystal” addition designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. Intriguing, yes? Take a look at more photos before we talk (and click here for the project photos from Studio Libeskind).

The view across the street.

The view across the street.


The glass facades provides interesting angles and reflections of the adjacent historic buildings.

The glass facades provides interesting angles and reflections of the adjacent buildings.


View down the street towards the entrance to the museum (via the Crystal).

View down the street towards the entrance to the museum (via the Crystal).


My first question: is that addition over the building or through the building?

My first question: is that addition over the building or through the building?


Checking out the connection on the facade.

Checking out the connection on the facade.


The Crystal peeks over the side of the building, too.

The Crystal peeks over the side of the building, too.

Still with me? It’s a crazy building, but you can’t ignore it or turn away, right? Unable to answer the question of how does the addition connect to the original building from the outside, I ventured inside. Here’s what I found:

The atrium, of sorts.

The atrium, of sorts.


I walked around to see the wall junctions. The Crystal addition creates odd shaped spaces.

I walked around to see the wall junctions. The Crystal addition creates odd shaped spaces.


Another connection view.

Another connection view.


In many places, the addition seems to be a facade for the original.

In many places, the addition seems to be a facade for the original.

The entire floor of the new building sloped towards the front door; a little disorienting for those of us accustomed to walking on generally level surfaces. After chatting with one of the employees, I learned that the building was quite controversial and does not have plumbing (it remains in the original building). Interesting. This employee indicated that the addition had a lot of political pressure behind it.

Regardless of public opinion, I want discuss, with you, the addition in terms of historic preservation (or heritage conservation as the Canadians say). Is this style of architecture appropriate for the historic 1912 museum? Is it intriguing? Atrocious? Offensive? Welcoming?

The architect’s portfolio describes the addition as this:

The entire ground level is unified into a seamless space with clarity of circulation and transparency.  The Crystal transforms the ROM’s fortress-like character, turning it into an inspired atmosphere dedicated to the resurgence of the Museum as the dynamic centre of Toronto.

The design succeeds in inviting glimpses up, down, into galleries and even from the street. The large entrance atrium, the Gloria Hyacinth Chen Court, separates the old historic building from the new, providing a nearly complete view of the restored façades of the historic buildings.   The Chen Court also serves as a venue space for all kinds of public events.

Where to start? Well, it’s interesting. It does offer glimpses of the other buildings. One street facade is restored. Still, is this an appropriate treatment of this historic building? Let’s consider what the National Parks Service and Parks Canada would say.

In the United States, we follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation when dealing with historically significant buildings and new additions or alterations, most notably the following two:

  • (#3) Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.
  • (#9) New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

In Canada, the regulations are not identical, though Parks Canada has The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. Similar to the US Standards, Parks Canada offers this about rehabilitation:

  • (#2) Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place.
  • (#3) Create any new additions or related new construction so that the essential form and integrity of a historic place will not be impaired if the new work is removed in the future.

Basically, both the US & Canada’s guidelines say that new addition should be recognizable as new and simultaneously compatible with the old and the environment. And, should the addition be removed it should not impact the historic building (presumably the historic – the more prominent building – would be the one remaining). Due to these standards and guidelines, additions are often subservient to their predecessors. Setback from the original, additions employ similar architectural features without being renditions. Sometimes they are successful. Sometimes they are boring, because – at least if they’re boring – the additions do not overpower the original. From one streetscape, the Crystal overpowers the original, wouldn’t you say?

If we’re talking personal opinion: I like it for its intriguing angles and new approach to additions (I’m tired of boring additions that look like subdued versions of the old, unless the environment calls for such a thing). Yet, after looking through the architect’s portfolio and searching for other modern buildings, this one is not as unique as I would have expected.

But, on a professional review: the addition does not comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. It is not visually compatible and removal would damage the building. However, is it not visually compatible because we’re not trained to read buildings with striking modern additions? Should we redefine how we look at buildings and additions? After all, there are countless style-less additions that ruin buildings. Maybe this one doesn’t ruin it so much as highlight a restored facade and engage conversation and community.

What do you think? Does it comply with the Standards? If yes, how? If no, should we look at the Standards in a new way? Or do you despise such modern architecture?

I’d love to have a discussion and hear your thoughts, so please comment below if you’d like to join.

Abandoned Quebec: Henrysburg Church

For years on my travels from Burlington to Montreal, I’ve caught glimpses of a small brick church beside the highway giving me an “abandoned” vibe. Even from the highway at 60mph, I could see that this church didn’t have any windows.

Finally, I was able to take a detour to visit this church. Getting off the exit at Henrysburg, Quebec, I was stunned. At first, there didn’t appear to be a way to get to the church, as it appeared to be encircled by the highways and ramps, without an access road. Fortunately, that was not the case. A small road off the access ramp led to the church.

A view from the side of Autoroute 15.

A view from the side of Autoroute 15.

The stone is the edge of the church property. See Autoroute 15 and the overpass. The church is practically in traffic.

The stone is the edge of the church property. See Autoroute 15 and the overpass. The church is practically in traffic.

See that island of trees? The church sits in there.

See that island of trees? The church sits in there.

Just sitting there in the middle of an interchange. (I do not know what Noel Canada means in this location.)

Just sitting there in the middle of an interchange. (I do not know what Noel Canada means in this location.)

The access road leading to the church.

The access road leading to the church (looking back to the highway on/off ramp). 

Despite the proximity to Autoroute 15, this is one of the most peaceful locations that I have visited. The church sits in an oasis of trees. The grass is mowed, probably because there is an active (as recently as 2012) cemetery on site.

Henrysburg Methodist Church, 1861.

Henrysburg Methodist Church, 1861.

Church & cemetery hiding in the trees.

Church & cemetery hiding in the trees. And, no windows on the church. 

The cemetery beside the church.

The cemetery beside the church.

Some headstones date to the mid to late 1800s.

Some headstones date to the mid to late 1800s. That’s the highway in the background. 

Others are much more recent, including up to 2012.

Others are much more recent, including up to 2012.

It's always sad to see a vandalized headstone. I wonder if this person's descendents have any idea.

It’s always sad to see a vandalized headstone. I wonder if this person’s descendents have any idea.

View on the other side.

View on the other side.

Front of the church. Note the tower is covered in vinyl. Meaning, not all that long ago, someone "cared" to take care of this church.

Front of the church. Note the tower is covered in vinyl. Meaning, not all that long ago, someone “cared” to take care of this church.

I was not expecting to find what I did when I looked in the church windows.

Rubble!

Rubble!

The interior was completely stripped of all materials - walls, floorboards, everything!

The interior was completely stripped of all materials – walls, floorboards, everything!

Upon further investigation, I found a demolition permit. It expired in 2014. Perhaps they started and were stopped?

Upon further investigation, I found a demolition permit. It expired in 2014. Perhaps they started and were stopped?

Montee Henrysburg.

The former address: 138 Montee Henrysburg.

I stood there fascinated while simultaneously feeling like I was attending a building’s funeral, or memorial service and having so many questions. Why is this church stripped of everything? How long has it been in the middle of this interchange? When was the roadway completed? Why was demolition stopped? Is there a community group, or perhaps the descendents of the departed have rallied? So many thoughts and questions. What are yours?

Presumably, the church was active until the overpass was constructed, until Autoroute 15 was widened or completed. The road was completed around the 1960s, though I cannot find a definitive date, nor one for roadway upgrades such as widening. A lot of google searching reveals only that the church was constructed as a Methodist Church in 1861 and active until 1975, but burials have continued until 2012.

And why strip the church? Perhaps to protect it from fire? It’s much harder to burn a brick building than one filled with wood and other flammable objects.

Does anyone care about this church? I cannot think of another example of a building stuck in the middle of an interchange. One on level, the interchanged caused the demise of the building. Yet, it’s also preserving this structure. It doesn’t appear to be a spot where anything else would be built, so why not leave the church there?

You can see the super-tall  highway lights over the ridgeline of this church.

You can see the super-tall highway lights over the ridgeline of this church.

Do you know anything about this church? I’d love to hear more and find out it’s fate, hopefully with good news.

Abandoned Vermont: Shaftsbury House

Driving by in the summertime, this house gave that abandoned aura. Driving by in the winter, it gave me the same feel. Finally, I had an opportunity to pull over and gaze at the building. The verdict? On a frigid (2 degrees) February day, this house looked frozen (actually frozen). With snow over my knees (and not the proper boots), I couldn’t get very close. Abandoned, vacant, seasonal or used for storage – it’s hard to tell.

Many readers always ask for information about the photographs on Preservation in Pink. Information is not always available. But, lucky for us, this house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Center Shaftsbury Historic District (see #22, Section 7, page 50).

The ca. 1850  Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House.

The ca. 1850 Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House. It looks as though someone started to paint… sort of (note the white and gray on the first story).

A bit about the architecture (from the NR): This ca. 1850 Greek Revival style house is a two-story, three by three bay gable front with sidehall plan, a two bay wing and rear attached shed. The single story porch wraps around the west and south elevations of the main house block.

The house is clad in clapboard on all sides except the area sheltered by the porch, which is flushboard. The double leaf doors with stained glass on the front porch were likely added at the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps when the windows were changed from 6/6 to 1/1.

Beautiful mature trees on the property.

Beautiful mature trees on the property. As for the house: note the 6/6 sash on the second floor and the 1/1 sash on the first floor. The first floor windows would be newer. Also note the tapered corner pilasters.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen (one clue is the snow between the storm window and the interior sash).

A bit of history (from the NR): This house was owned and built by Norman R. Douglass (1818-1897) who from 1851-1856 was one of the principals in the Eagle Square Manufacturing Company of South Shaftsbury, a long-lived and successful company that formed for the purpose of manufacturing accurate metal carpenter’s squares. His wife was C. Amelia Douglass (1828-1919).

Clark and Rhoda Stone lived here in 1869 and in 1880. The Child’s Gazetteer lists Stone as a livestock dealer and farmer with two hundred acres of land, as well as one hundred acres of timber land in Glastenbury and part interested in 2,500 acres on West Mountain in Shaftsbury. Subsequent owners included Ralph Bottom and Harry Ellison.

Sunny, frigid day.

Sunny, frigid day, and nothing shoveled or plowed.

View from across the street.

View from across the street.

At the time of the National Register nomination (1988), the property was owned by Priscilla & Woflgang Ludwig and the house was rented to tenants. A search reveals that Ludwig Dairy remains in operation in Shaftsbury, today. Where does this leave the beautiful house, 27 years after the NR? Often old farmhouses are used for storage or seasonal use, as descendants built new houses down the road for one reason or another. The Douglass House appears to be generally maintained and on land used by the family farm.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

The conclusion? It’s not quite abandoned, but it certainly does not appear to be lived in. Hopefully there is a brighter future for this Greek Revival house.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

Vermont’s Sculpture on the Highway

Yesterday’s photo of concrete sculpture was not a crowd favorite, and it’s understandable. Concrete blocks? So exciting. With just a glance, there isn’t much to it, particularly in a cloudy season with no snow or leaves. Perhaps taking this interstate sculpture in greater context will make this sculpture more interesting. Yes, there are more concrete sculptures at rest areas on Vermont’s interstates. There are marble sculptures, too. Read on to learn about Vermont’s interstate art.

An art collection, known as “Sculpture on the Highway,” was developed in the late 1960s/early 1970s. There are eighteen concrete and marble sculptures located at rest areas and pull offs on Interstate 91 and 89, stretching from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. The intent was to create one (very long, linear) sculpture park. These sculptures were commissioned as a result of Vermont’s sculpture symposia, an American response to an international phenomena of the 1960s goals of fostering peaceful artistic dialogue. The efforts were funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council, and organized by Paul Aschenbach, a University of Vermont Sculpture professor. Aschenbach brought in talented sculptors from all over the world. The marble was donated by the Vermont Marble Company and the concrete donated by the S.T. Griswold Concrete Company.

Today some of these sculptures are located in rest areas or pull offs that have since been closed due to budget restraints. However, you can see many of them  (though you might have to look closely – the Georgia sculpture is set behind the parking lot, not a place you’d immediately notice). In 2013, the Vermont Agency of Transportation relocated a 1968 marble sculpture by Viktor Rogy from the original Guilford rest area to the new Guilford rest area off I-91 northbound. While it is in a new setting, the (now cleaned) marble sculpture can once again be viewed by the traveling public in a similar environment.

The Viktor Rogy 1968 marble sculpture in the old Guilford rest stop, prior to relocation and cleaning.

The Viktor Rogy 1968 marble sculpture in the old Guilford rest stop, prior to relocation and cleaning.

A bit more interesting than just one concrete sculpture, yes? Want more information? See these links:

Abandoned Vermont: Hyde Manor

Happy Halloween preservationists and all. Here’s a special Abandoned Vermont: one of the largest, most notable (and probably haunted, if you’re into that sort of thing) – the Hyde Manor. Historical information is from the book, The Historic Architecture of Rutland County. Find more links at the end of this post.

Historic Hyde Manor. Click for source and more information.

Historic Hyde Manor. Click for source and more information.

“Resort development began in Sudbury at mid (19th) century. The Hyde family had long run a tavern and inn on the turnpike south of the village, but a fire destroyed the old inn in 1862, and in 1865 the 4 story Italianate style Hyde Manor was constructed. A mineral spring on the property was a prime attraction, and after 1871 guests arrived by rail via the Addison Branch railroad in neighboring Whiting and traveled south through Sudbury village to the manor. A hotel in the village and a nearby dance hall appear to have benefited from this traffic.

As Hyde Manor prospered and the tastes of the resort going public changed in the last years of the 19th century, numerous outbuildings with special recreational functions were added to the resort, including a casino (c. 1885) and an octagonal structure (c. 1900) used for gentlemen’s card games and smoking. Visitors could also elect a mile and a half carriage ride to the Manor boathouse (c. 1870) to enjoy an excursion on Lake Hortonia. Nearby, the Hortonia offered hotel lodging for those vacationers who preferred to stay directly on the lakeshore. At the turn of the century, as vacationers sought more informal ways to enjoy their leisure, summer residences began to appear in Sudbury.”

Recreation, leisure, and travel continued to change in American society; resort hotels such as Hyde Manor fell out of favor. The automobile era and the chain hotel emergence wiped out older establishments. The opening of the interstate further changed travel patterns. As customers dwindle, income shrinks and maintenance is postponed or neglected. Hyde Manor could no longer afford operations or maintenance, and it closed in the 1970s. Today the building has deteriorated to point of collapsed wings and floors, complete structural failure, and more.

Sadly, this is not a building that could be rehabilitated. Instead Hyde Manor sits quietly in ruins, more so with every passing season. Owners live on the property and must watch it give way to gravity, the earth, and time. And even in its current condition, you can stand on the side of the road and imagine what a beautiful, luxurious place this must have been for visitors.

Hyde Manor, 2011.

Hyde Manor, 2011.

Structural failure.

Structural failure.

More structural failure.

More structural failure.

Spooky curtains blowing in the wind!

Spooky curtains blowing in the wind!

Broken windows, curtains, shutters.

Broken windows, curtains, shutters.

Through a window. Unsafe floor conditions!

Through a window. Unsafe floor conditions!

The property is big, and creepy.

The property is big, and creepy.

The front of the manor.

The front of the manor.

So many architectural details remain on this failing building.

So many architectural details remain on this failing building.

For more information read here: The Fall of Hyde Manor, Haunted Hotel, Hyde Manor (historic photos, too), and more Hyde Manor. Note to the curious: respect the owners’ property and privacy.

Abandoned Quebec: Mirabel Airport & Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel

Mirabel Airport opened in 1975, just in time for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. At the time it was the largest airport in the world, and meant to solve the problems of Montreal’s (supposed) overcrowded Dorval Airport (now Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport). While Mirabel Airport was sited a fair distance (34 miles) outside of downtown Montreal, the master plan was to construct high speed rail and a highway to provide easy access for travelers. It sounded good. However, the rail was never constructed and the highway ended before the airport. Mirabel became too inconvenient for travelers and airlines, all of whom preferred Dorval Airport. Passenger numbers never reached the predictions of 20 million, and slowly declined, with passenger service ending in 2004. Since then, the terminal has sat empty, used only for the filming of a few films (The Terminal; Warm Bodies, for example). The former passenger airline runway is used for racing tracks (a brilliant adaptive reuse of all that pavement!) The airport serves only cargo planes.

However, an abandoned airport is particularly on the creepy side, when you consider that it’s a modern relic. The approach to the airport includes an empty parking garage on one side and the abandoned hotel on the other side. The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel closed in 2002 due to lack of business. The hotel has sat empty since then. For a while there was talk of rehabilitating the terminal into a conference center, but plans never materialized. As of May 2014, the demolition of the airport terminal was announced, citing that rehabilitation / adaptive reuse could cost tens of millions of dollars.

Drag racing on the runways. You can see signs of the airport taxi lanes.

Drag racing on the runways. You can see signs of the airport taxi lanes.

A portion of the terminal that you can walk up to, but not see in.

A portion of the terminal that you can walk up to, but not see in.

That same portion outside the fence.

That same portion outside the fence.

The terminal is fenced off.

The terminal is fenced off.

View of the terminal from across the runway.

View of the terminal from across the runway.

The terminal at sunset.

The terminal at sunset.

The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel.

The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel.

Broken windows, curtains hanging, some lights on... creepy in concrete. There's a Soviet Russia feel here.

Broken windows, curtains hanging, some lights on… creepy in concrete. There’s a Soviet Russia feel here.

View of the Chateau and the abandoned parking deck, with the terminal in the background.

View of the Chateau and the abandoned parking deck, with the terminal in the background.

An example of poor modern planning, perhaps? What do you think of this modern relic abandoned and demolished?

Want to read more? Mirabel Airport & Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel & interior photosAn article and videos of the hotel’s interior. And check out the video of the airport.