I just returned from a museums conference in Ottawa and was just sorting through my notes to post soon on a few of the surprisingly positive public space approaches that were discussed there, when my usual cynicism about the commercialization of museum spaces was restored by the following news item: ROM wants city to move street vendors from view of Crystal.
It reinforces perceptions of snobbery and elitism that come with opening an empty starchitect-designed building and charging $20 a pop for people to simply walk through its spaces. Though the museum has filled up a bit more since June, it’s still largely empty, possibly in part — I’ve been told by sources in the know — because its pricey rooms are not adequate to maintaining delicate archival materials.
I will post soon on those more positive things I heard about museums and public spaces, but this is not one of them. It was bad enough when a private institution like Ogilvy’s in Montreal tried to ban a similarly folksy “spoons” player from its front-facing public sidewalk (as reported in a past print issue of Spacing), but when a supposedly public institution attempts it, it’s just that much uglier — good architecture or not.
Forget the Star Wars battles out front, maybe we should try for a Dark Crystal theme next time.
photo by Sam Javanrouh