"The ‘Elephant Man’ of Museums"

For your consideration, Life Without Buildings presents another apocalypic prediction cum “review” from the cantankerous James Howard Kunstler, whom has previously implicitly accused our beloved Rem of homicidal tendencies. His Target this time? Daniel Libeskind’s equally murderous addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The stuffy old gentleman of a museum has developed a horrendous steel and glass tumor. It has become the “Elephant Man” of museums.

Now, you may ask yourself: why is this sort of thing acceptable to the Guardians of Culture? The answer may be that it sends a truthful but subliminal message (which, alas, we are misinterpreting) that the mis-use of technology has become the fatal disease of civilization.

[Once again, emphasis mine. Also please note the misuse of “mis-use.”]

Not only does he have the distinct honor of finding his designs in the company of such presitigous work as “Detroit elemenary school sign” and “12 lane Floriday highway,” but Libeskind also has the unprecedented esteem of recieving Kunstler’s attention two months in a row! In November, Kuntler’s “Eyesore of the Month” was the new Denver Art Museum, which he elegantly described as “an instrument for proctological surgery” and compared the architect to the notorious Nazi, Dr. Mengele.


4 replies on “"The ‘Elephant Man’ of Museums"”

You know, he’s right. These buildings are horrible atrocities. I live in Minneapolis where we’re “blessed” with a few of these horrid things, the Wiseman museum and the Walker museum.

Deconstructivism is an assault on the senses. It’s designed to make a person feel uncomfortable and it’s oppressive in the same way Stalinist architecture was, but without the sense of structure and permanence. These are nothing more than randomly-scattered polyhedra, and the new ones even have crack lines on them to make it further seem that the buildings are about to fall apart into pieces.

I’m hardly a stodgy person, in fact quite the opposite. But these buildings are abominations, blasphemies against the senses. And of course that’s just what the architects intended. It’s not “What can I do for the city” but instead “What can I get away with?”


I’m by no means a Libeskind fan – I found his Berlin Museum to be a influenced more by ego than anything else – but I wouldn’t call his building “atrocities” or “abomiations.”

Love him or hate him, architects like Libeskind are furthuring the profession with their innovative forms, theoies, and application of more….well, academic concepts.

I happened to be in Toronto last summer and saw it with my eyes. Even though it was still under construction, I was shocked than impressed. It was far different from what people who come to the museum expect to see. Well, his statement does make sense, but I think he could have done a better way to express his theory without messing up the museum’s history.
I cannot wait to go back and see the completed construction…

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