Architects pen open letter urging government to reopen Ontario Science Centre

The Toronto Society of Architects (TSA) is urging the Ontario government to reopen the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) on Don Mills Rd. The letter comes after the provincial government announced that the Centre’s landmark building was being shut down after professional engineers found some “serious structural issues” with the building earlier this month.

The TSA states that the sudden closure of the OSC is “deeply disappointing”, especially considering there are other viable options to continue to use the existing facility for its intended use.

“Back in 2023, when the Province first made public its intentions to move the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) from its purpose-built home, we issued a letter urging the Premier and his government to reconsider this decision,” members of the Ontario Association of Architects (on behalf of the Toronto Society of Architects Executive) wrote in their June 27 letter. “We noted the OSC’s irreplaceable value as part of the province’s and country’s history, the inextricable relationship between the building and its location within a ravine, and the OSC’s important role as a cultural and community resource for the historically underserved Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park neighbourhoods. We continue to stand behind these principles.”

The letter adds that additional information has surfaced after their initial 2023 letter was written, including the significantly reduced size of the Science Centre in its new proposed location, the projected “embodied carbon” of the new facility, and the lack of any maintenance for the existing site.

“These updates continue to reveal that decisions are being made without considering the full picture of city building or the best interests of Ontarians,” the letter states.

The letter continues that the province justified the sudden closure of the OSC earlier this month as necessary for public safety, “but this is a mis-characterization of what the report prepared by Rimkus Consulting Group actually states. The report only identified a small portion of roof panels as critical or high risk, and proposed safe alternative options that do not require the closure of the Science Centre”.

The letter concludes with the executive committee is remaining steadfast in their position that the retention, repair, and update of the OSC’s current building is in the best interest for all Ontarians.

“We urge the government to reverse the proposed move and take the necessary steps to re-open the OSC,” the letter concludes.

As we reported last week, the engineering assessment showed that — in parts of the facility — the roof structure was built using construction materials and systems that are now “outdated” and that certain roof panels are deteriorating. Still, the infrastructure report states that the centre could technically remain open throughout the summer.

“Based on our review of exposed [reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete] RAAC panels to date, and that shoring has been installed to support critical risk panels, it is our opinion that buildings A, B and C are currently safe for occupancy until October 31, 2024,” the report stated, adding that risk mitigation for roof areas containing high-risk panels is the immediate concern.

TSA members aren’t the only ones urging the government to reopen — local tech entrepreneurs have offered to personally cover the costs required to keep the Science Centre open for 2024.

“If lack of money for repairs is truly the only thing keeping OSC closed this summer, my friends and I are happy to help,” angel investor Adam McNamara stated as part of a series of posts on X. “Giving tens of thousands of children and their families the opportunity to fall in love with science seems like a great way to be helpful.”