Architects and local residents continue their pushback against the Ontario government after their sudden decision to close the Ontario Science Centre. Many also accuse the government of manufacturing the crisis to find a reason to close and demolish the beloved science museum. 

The Ontario provincial government, led by conservative Premier Doug Ford, suddenly closed the building on June 21, citing concerns about the roofing brought up by a recent report by Rimkus Consulting Group. They allegedly deemed the situation dangerous, barring new visitors and canceling the museum’s summer slate almost instantly. 

Sky view of the Ontario Science Centre building. Photo by James Koole. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Sky view of the Ontario Science Centre building. Photo by James Koole. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

However, architects in the region pushed back on the allegations. An influential group of the country’s architects called for the building’s reopening.

The Toronto Society of Architects recently published a letter urging the government to reopen the museum. They called the decision “deeply disappointing” and called the government’s reasoning behind the closure a “mis-characterization.”

“We remain steadfast in our position that the retention, repair and update of the Ontario Science Centre’s current building is in the best interest for all Ontarians. We urge the government to reverse the proposed move and take the necessary steps to re-open the OSC,” they said.

‘Structural Decay’ or Political Maneuvering?

The report by Rimkus Consulting Group found that portions of the facility’s roof panels had “reduced load carrying capacity” that could make the roof collapse during strong snow or rainfall periods. They made the roof from reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete panels, which were popular in the late ‘60s. However, the consulting group recommended replacing the roof panels, not closing the facility permanently. 

Local residents, like Save Ontario Science Centre founder Jason Ash, called the closure a hit job from the Ford administration. The administration has been pushing for the closure of the building, planning to move it to a smaller space in their new Ontario Place development. 

The Ontario Place development became a controversial issue after a 2022 development plan for a mega-spa in the heritage site came to light. Residents and activists see the Ontario Science Centre’s relocation to Ontario Place as a way to appease opponents of the spa development. 

The Cinesphere at Ontario Place. The area finds itself embroidered in controversy over a private development in the area. Photo by Maksim Sokolov. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Cinesphere at Ontario Place. The area finds itself embroidered in controversy over a private development in the area. Photo by Maksim Sokolov. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“We were worried this stunt would be pulled by Premier Ford and the Ontario government,” Ash said. “This is a manufactured crisis and we feel it’s an abuse of power.”

Is the Roof Repairable?

A recent CBC report put the government’s own conclusions into question after they found hundreds of buildings with similar roofing materials—but no closures ordered by the government. Infrastructure Ontario CEO Michael Lindsay, whose company conducted a separate review, said that most of the buildings are currently occupied.

Ontario Premier and politician Doug Ford. Photo by Doug Ford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Ontario Premier and politician Doug Ford. Photo by Doug Ford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“I want to stress that all of the mitigations and monitoring that we’ve put in place for the Ontario Science Centre are also in place for those facilities, so there’s already enhanced management of rainwater and moisture on roofs,” Lindsay said. 

Sustained Efforts to Open the Facilities

Thanks to the closure, summer programs aimed at children and their families were canceled. The government is currently working in potential temporary spaces to house the Science Centre. The spaces they seek, however, would be 1/5th to 1/10th of the size of the original facility. 

Aerial view of Ontario Science Centre. Photo by Canmenwalker. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial view of Ontario Science Centre. Photo by Canmenwalker. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Moriyama Teshima Architects, whose founder Raymond Moriyama built the iconic regional building, said that the closure was unnecessary. They believe that the problems can be mitigated by a renovation, which the firm offered to help on for free.

“Repairs are needed, but on a manageable scale and with potentially minimal impact on the public experience of the building,” they said. “We offer our architectural services pro bono to the Government of Ontario to realize the necessary roof repairs and we encourage the structural and building science community to similarly offer pro bono services for this scope to accomplish the recommended repairs immediately.” 

Meanwhile, private citizens are offering to foot the bill for the roof repair to reopen the museum. Science educator Sabina Vohra-Miller’s Vohra Miller Foundation offered the government $1 million to repair the roof. 

The Ontario government refused to say if they will take the offers to repair the Science Centre.

Related reading: Philadelphia University of the Arts Shutters, Leaving Students in Limbo

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