Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Renaissance ROM backgrounder

There was an interesting profile of Libeskind in the G&M a couple weeks ago that recounts his road to starchitecture, his relationship and partnership with his wife, Nina (who, incidentally is the daughter of late federal NDP leader David Lewis and sister of former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis), and his design philosophy:

The goal has been to be immune to expression, to produce objective, not subjective architecture. But who wants to be trapped in an anonymous box? Neutrality is not a value...The world is enriched not by neutrality or indifference, but by passions and beliefs. Why settle for buildings on a regimented formula that denies human desire?

And another profile of Michael Lee-Chin, the self-made billionaire who donated $30 million towards Renaissance ROM. His immigrant story as a mixed Chinese (he's Hakka, as a matter of fact!) and Black man from Jamaica who arrived without enough money to finish his engineering degree at McMaster and later made his fortune with AIC, a mutual fund company.

I love this anecdote about how Hilary Weston came knocking on his door to ask him to serve as lead donor:

He asked her why she went to the trouble of going all the way to Burlington when she could have looked across the breakfast table and asked her billionaire husband to take care of it.

"Well," said Mrs. Weston, "if Galen wrote the cheque, it wouldn't cause a ripple. But if you do it, it will be an inspiration to every immigrant."

And I'll admit it. I'm a sap because it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside as a child of Hakka Chinese immigrants.

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