Explained: A timeline of the Ontario Science Centre closure

This timeline breaks down the origins of the centre and its current controversy.

The Ontario Science Centre has been thrust into the national spotlight this month after its doors were suddenly shut by the province.

Officials cited a report commissioned by Infrastructure Ontario due to concerns over roof failure in other jurisdictions that used specific roof panels also found at the Ontario Science Centre facility. The province said the report found that the building, which is more than 50 years old, is at risk of potential roof panel failure due to snow load as early as this winter.

Critics were quick to challenge the province’s reasoning, noting that they believe the report‘s recommendations are far more moderate. Architect and writer Alex Bozikovic noted that the report recommends that all roofs be replaced over a 10-year period, and all “high risk” and “critical risk” areas be reinforced and replaced before Oct. 31. And that those areas make up 5%, 4% and 1% of the centre’s three buildings.

Moriyama Teshima Architects, the firm behind the design of centre, has strongly advocated for rejuvenating the building rather than moving the Science Centre elsewhere. They questioned the decision to close the centre and offered to assist with the repairs for free.

“The Rimkus engineering report makes it clear that closing the OSC is not a necessity,” said the firm in a statement. “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.”

Here’s a timeline of the centre’s history so far:

1964: Ontario’s government enlists architect Raymond Moriyama to craft the design for the Science Centre in celebration of Canada’s 100th birthday. At a time when science museums were reliant on labels and display cases, the facility was designed to be hands-on and participatory. It remains one of the firm’s most iconic projects.

1969: The Ontario Science Centre debuts. Construction costs were approximately $23 million and an additional $7 million was spent on initial exhibit development.

2016: A government report proposes relocating the centre to cut costs. The centre’s board recognizes the unsustainability of the current situation due to maintenance backlogs.

2020: Relocation discussions resurface as the tourism ministry suggests the move to free up land for housing.

August 2020: Infrastructure Ontario is tasked with assessing the potential benefits and costs of moving the centre to Ontario Place.

June 2021: Ontario Science Centre leadership is informed that the relocation to Ontario Place is deemed a “priority project”.

March 2023: A commissioned study reveals that renovating the existing centre would cost $1.3 billion over five decades, while constructing and running a new facility at Ontario Place would amount to $1.05 billion.

April 18, 2023: Premier Doug Ford announces the Ontario Science Centre will find its new home at Ontario Place in a custom-built, state-of-the-art facility, as well as in the preserved and upgraded Cinesphere and Pod complex.

December 6, 2023: The provincial auditor general highlights omissions in the relocation study, including various expense considerations. Their report concluded that the decision to move the centre was made without a full comparison of the projected costs or proper consultations with the city or its school boards.

June 21, 2024: The Ontario government unexpectedly announces the immediate and permanent shutdown of the current Science Centre location, citing roof structural concerns.

June 24, 2024: Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says the province, not the city, should pay to fix the Ontario Science Centre after its sudden closure due to safety concerns. She added that talks regarding the future of the science centre site, promised by the province, haven’t happened yet. 


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