Can the future of the McLaughlin Planetarium be saved?

With the Michael A. Lee Chin Crystal and associated expansion to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) underway, it is interesting to note that on the south end of the site, the future of the McLaughlin Planetarium seems doomed for destruction.

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has issued a call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the redevelopment of 90 Queen’s Park, the site of the McLaughlin Planetarium. Proposal calls were placed in the Globe and Mail and the New York Times asking interested partners to submit proposals for co-development of the site by May 31, 2004. The Expression of Interest is intended to identify the range of potential partners and possible uses that would be compatible with the ROM’s requirements, which include: an additional 35,000 square feet of offices, collections storage and future gallery space, connection with the existing east and west wings of the ROM, a TTC connection and "a high standard of architectural design". The redevelopment of site of the basically doomed Planetarium is outside the scope of the current $200 million Renaissance ROM project currently under construction.

One would think that the needs of the Daniel Liebeskind addition at the north end of the site could have absorbed some of the program requirements to the south end of the site, thus offering the possibility of re-using the Planetarium and its adjacencies in a less prescriptive, and constrictive fashion.

However, as William Thorsell, Director and CEO of the ROM has mentioned, “The momentum and success of Renaissance ROM has got us thinking about the feasibility of a possible new third phase for the project, of which the redevelopment of 90 Queen’s Park would be a key factor.” At the present time, the ROM has no money or plans to "rebuild and/or operate a planetarium on this sitehowever, the Museum would consider such a proposal if it met its other objectives."

The ROM will form an expert committee to review the results of the EOI and, "if favourable, a short list of respondents will be invited to submit a more formal Request for Proposal this summer". Currently, the facility at 90 Queen’s Park is being used for office space and storage.

For more information on Renaissance ROM, please visit