Canadian Consulting Engineer

Builders top off Lee-Chin Crystal

Overhanging Bloor Street West close to University Avenue in Toronto is one of the most extraordinary structures in ...

July 28, 2005  Canadian Consulting Engineer

Overhanging Bloor Street West close to University Avenue in Toronto is one of the most extraordinary structures in Canada.
The Royal Ontario Museum’s $211-million expansion project hit a milestone on July 12 when the framework for the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal was “topped off” with the final steel beam. The frame overhangs the street below from a height of roughly 37-metres. For a few months Torontonians have chance to enjoy the complex assembly exposed like a giant Meccano set, until it is enclosed in extruded aluminum cladding and glass.
Halsall Associates and Arup Canada are the structural engineers of the expansion. Bregman & Hamann Associates of Toronto and Daniel Libeskind (master designer of the World Trade Center site in New York) are the architects.
The Lee-Chin Crystal consists of five unique jagged forms that are interrelated and squeezed between the museum’s heritage buildings along one of the city’s grandest streets edging the University of Toronto campus.
Since construction began in May 2003, the 70 x 80 metre site has become the centre of one of the most challenging construction jobs in North America. Walter’s, the steel fabricators, say it has “pushed the limits of steel fabrication and construction.” VanBots is in charge of construction.
Each steel beam in the crystal is unique and their length ranges from one metre to 25 metres. Shipments arrived in 25-tonne packages and were on site for only a day before installation. The engineers used laptops and 3-D illustrations to visualize how the shapes fit together. Approximately 2,800 tonnes of steel, 3,000 steel pieces, 38 tonnes of bolts and 9,000 cubic metres of concrete were involved.
On site an 80 metre crane lifted the beams one by one to a specific angle, with a three or four millimetre tolerance creating the complicated angle joints, sloped walls and gallery ceilings.
The $211-million project is scheduled to open to the public in the summer of 2006.
See the December 2003 issue of Canadian Consulting Engineer. Visit, “Print Edition,” archives.



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