Architect brews new museum design for old malting silos

Look around Toronto and it’s easy to see the great number of museums the city has to offer; the Royal Ontario Museum, the Science Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and numerous other cultural sites. The museum Toronto does not have is one that focuses on the history of the city.

In 2006, the city began a project to create an exclusively Toronto-based museum.  Since then there has been a site selected and a call for designs.  The site is located at Bathurst Street and Queen’s Quay, at the former Canadian Malting Company silos, overlooking Lake Ontario.

But the question remains, what would the interior look like, what would the museum focus on and what would be the general theme.

Karen Carter, spokesperson for the Toronto Museum Project, sees it as a reflection of Toronto’s makeup.

“If you ask people, how they want the exhibit laid out, they’ll want their own rooms,” Carter said. “The main point is not that we live in different silos. We want to show the points that connect us.”

Architect Rob Levit has taken the opportunity to create his own design of the project, with his company Khoury, Levit and Fong; all are University of Toronto professors.

“The main feature of the silos are the windows,” Levit said. “Which we plan, using liquid crystal display technology, to display pictures of (historic) Toronto over the views of (the) harbourfront.”

But the Canadian Malting Company silos are providing the biggest challenge in establishing the space. The building has no natural light, requiring many windows to be created.  And there is still the environmental impact to consider.

“When you’ve had malt and barley fermenting for so long there are existing toxins that stay around, so we need to do an environmental assessment,” Carter said.

Khoury, Levit and Fong were among 11 different design teams that pitched ideas to the city on March 30, 2008.

“Because of the size of the silos we didn’t’ really think of them as exhibit space,” Levit said. “The challenges were not about physical design but about he difficulty in using industrial space as an historical interpretation.”

The project has a projected completion date of 2015.  Before then the city has to decide what of it’s own collection will be used and which design they will go with.

“We’re not sure what portion of the city’s collection will be loaned,” Carter said. “But 2015 is still realistic, and even before that we plan to have a virtual museum available online.”