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Many a critical stone has been cast since it opened last year, but this week the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum got a very big boost when Condé Nast Traveler magazine named architect Daniel Libeskind’s controversial creation one of the “new seven wonders of the world.”

With a paid monthly circulation of 800,000, Condé Nast Traveler is a highly influential magazine. And by giving the Crystal the full-colour double-page treatment along with the six other artificial “wonders” – they include the 160-storey Burj Dubai complex in the United Arab Emirates, Manhattan’s New Museum and the rebuilt Wembley Stadium in London – “it puts it into a global context,” a delighted ROM president William Thorsell said yesterday.

The article, in the magazine’s April issue, acknowledges that the $135-million Crystal and its jagged thrusts of steel, glass and aluminum have “received mixed reviews from the locals – and that’s putting it mildly.” But it goes on to suggest that “the aggressively deconstructionist addition is just the shock of the new that this slow-to-change city needs.”

Mr. Thorsell said he had “heard a rumour that [the article] was coming but I didn’t know until Tuesday that they’d done it.” The approbation of Condé Nast Traveler, to his mind, is “a real tribute to Libeskind,” the Polish-born, New York-based architect whose now-famous yarn of drawing the first iteration of the Crystal on a cocktail napkin is dutifully repeated in the article. “It’s really nice to see that kind of notice.”

Asked if it was also a vindication of his own unstinting devotion to the Crystal, Mr. Thorsell demurred somewhat. “A lot of people think the Crystal was built in the face of all this public opposition. But if you go back to the actual selection process [in 2001-2002], when we had the exhibitions, the lectures and all that, he was the favourite” among the three finalists, Mr. Thorsell said. “That was a very open process and the people of Toronto did not come out and say, ‘Don’t do the Crystal.’ I think if we’d announced something ordinary, there would have been a great sense of disappointment in the city. So I think it’s a tribute to the city; the city embraced it by the end of the selection process, for the most part.”

Late last year The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic Lisa Rochon named the Crystal as “the building most likely to come down in the next 20 years.” Wednesday Mr. Thorsell was begging to differ.

“Over time, I think it will prevail.”

Condé Nast Traveler, in the meantime, already thinks it’s one for the ages.

James Adams
Globe and Mail