The controversial Michael Lee-Chin “Crystal”, a multimillion-dollar expansion to the museum including a new sliding door entrance on Bloor St. first opened in 2007. The Deconstructivist crystalline form is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminium, sitting on top of a steel frame. The Crystal’s canted walls do not touch the sides of the existing heritage buildings, but are used to close the envelope between the new form and existing walls. These walls act as a pathway for pedestrians to travel safely across “The Crystal”.
The building’s design is similar to some of Libeskind’s other works, notably the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre, and the Fredric C. Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum. The steel framework was manufactured and assembled by Walters Inc. of Hamilton, Ontario. The extruded anodized aluminium cladding was fabricated by Josef Gartner in Germany: the only company in the world that can produce the material. The company also provided the titanium cladding for Frank Gehry‘s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
The overall aim of The Crystal is to provide openness and accessibility, seeking to blur the lines between the threshold linking the public area of the street and the more private area of the museum. The goal is to act as an open threshold where people and artifacts animate the space. The main lobby is a three-story high atrium, named the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court. The lobby is overlooked by balconies and flanked by the J.P. Driscoll Family Stair of Wonders and the Spirit House, an interstitial space formed by the intersection of the east and west crystals that is intended as a space of emotional and physical diversion.