Closing science centre unnecessary, says firm of architect who designed building

TORONTO — Closing the Ontario Science Centre building is not necessary, the firm of the architect who designed it said Tuesday, offering its services free of charge to the provincial government for roof repairs in a bid to keep it open.

Ontario announced mid-day Friday that the science centre would permanently close in its east Toronto location at the end of the day after the province received an engineering report on the state of the roof.

That Rimkus Consulting report said some roof panels are at risk of collapse, and Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma said the engineers told government officials that the roof should be replaced in its entirety, which would take two to five years.

But it is not the only option presented in the report, and the firm of the late architect Raymond Moriyama wrote in a statement Tuesday that the decision to "abruptly, rashly and permanently" close the science centre was a shock. It is urging the government to reverse course.

"The Rimkus engineering report makes it clear that closing the OSC is not a necessity," the firm wrote.

"Repairs are needed, but on a manageable scale and with potentially minimal impact on the public experience of the building. 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."

Surma has said the closure is necessary to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, and explained the timing by saying that even though the engineers deemed the building safe until Oct. 31, when risk of the weight of snow on the roof starts, the employees need time to decommission the building and move all of the exhibits out before then.

The government has had plans in the works for a while to move the science centre from its east Toronto location to a redeveloped Ontario Place on the city's waterfront, with the planned new building slated to open in 2028. Government officials have said they will look for a temporary location in the meantime.

Surma has justified the move, in the face of vocal opposition, by citing a government-commissioned business case that showed the relocation would save about $250 million over 50 years, but the cost savings largely come from the new building being half the size of the current one.

The government says there will be more exhibit space in the new building, but Moriyama Teshima said halving the size of the science centre "does a disservice to the people of Ontario."

The firm has been pushing behind the scenes to keep the doors open at the science centre's east Toronto location.

"We see this as imperative to preserve and improve the OSC as a much needed and loved cultural and educational asset serving communities in this time of population growth," they wrote.

Regenerating and revitalizing the current building would also be more environmentally friendly, the architects wrote in their statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2024.

Liam Casey and Allison Jones, The Canadian Press