Downtown London - News

October 2018

  • Renovations re-introduce Museum London to downtown

    October 15, 2018

    Renovations re-introduce Museum London to downtown


    By Sean Meyer


    Back in 1980, Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama was hired to design the new home for what is now known as Museum London, but it took some 38 years for his vision to finally come to reality.


    On Sept. 30, officials and local supporters cut the ribbon on Museum London’s $3.8 million renovation, the Centre at the Forks.


    Along with doubling the museum’s programming space up to 4,400 square feet, the renovation introduced a massive window that overlooks the forks of the Thames River. That connection not only brings the community back to the museum for an important reintroduction to the community, but has brought its original vision back into play.


    Museum London executive director Brian Meehan said he feels “relieved and proud and energized” by the response he’s heard from visitors.


    “A couple of people said they were in awe, others said they couldn’t believe it, some said they were just so excited by how this changes the museum’s role and presence in the community,” he said. “I think for anybody coming in who didn’t know anything about the project, they would assume it always looked like this.”


    The building might well have been constructed that way, Brian explains, had the budget not been cut during construction.


    In fact, the final product was so far from Raymond’s original vision — one that embraced the building’s connection to the Thames River — that he turned his back on it. In fact, he even took the project off his CV.


    However, a recent return visit helped heal those old wounds.


    “Ray came . . . we toured him around the building, and he was thrilled,” Brian said. “He really felt it was in the spirit of what he wanted to accomplish originally. It was almost like he could feel a pride now in his building he didn’t feel before.”


    Like any institution or establishment in the community, after a while its presence can be taken for granted and it’s eventually not at the front of the people’s mind.


    What Brian said is perhaps most exciting about the Centre at the Forks is it allows him the opportunity to re-introduce the museum — and everything it has to offer —to the community.


    It will also offer Museum London staff to think differently, perhaps more broadly, about programming in the future.


    “Part of it was not only the view out to the forks, but the view in. It’s one of the reasons the pod is the colour it is, the shape it is,” Brian said. “We could build a square room, but the builder said there should be a sculptural element in the space. It will draw the eye in. The programming we do in here, we know it will be seen from outside, so that’s now very much a consideration.”


    The way the museum is now situated, connecting more with the community, will also pay considerable dividends when taking into account the building’s place in the downtown.


    Whether it is the Juno Awards, the Back to the River project, or the Dundas Place flex street, Brian said Museum London’s re-connection to the downtown is opening up a new and important reality.


    “One of the things we don’t have enough of as Londoners, as downtowners, is pride. When you see an outsider’s perspective, it’s exciting,” he said. “When something becomes part of your everyday, you don’t realize how good we have it here. This will contribute just like Fanshawe, Budweiser Gardens, the Covent Garden Market, they are all elements of a vital downtown and it’s really important we’re a part of that.”


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