Rising more than three hundred feet in the Winnipeg skyline, the tower of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights aspired to be a “beacon for humanity.” But despite its inclusive goals, the massive building has proven to be as much a lightning rod as a beacon.
Designed by Antoine Predock Architect, with Canadian firm Architecture 49 as executive architect, the museum was first conceived in 2000 by late Winnipeg media mogul Israel Asper. His foundation worked with local and national governments to establish the museum, now located at the Forks, a riverside park at the heart of Winnipeg. Its exhibitions are intended to educate visitors on the history of human rights, and the architecture aims to be active in shaping visitors’ experiences by staging a journey through a series of diverse and monumental spaces.
Visitors enter the $351 million dollar museum through its base, called the Roots, moving upward through a series of gardens, halls, galleries, and exhibition spaces. The interior features a broad material palette: from Mongolian basalt to Tyndall limestone to soaring steel and glass in a 23-story atrium. With name such as “Gardens of Contemplation” and “Trail of Light,” each space evokes lofty ambitions.
However, accusations of vagueness and incoherence have marred the museum and its architecture. Critics have called its design too frenetic, while boycotters claim its curators mishandled the complex subject of humans rights—citing the neglect of WWI internments, the Israel-Paelstine conflict, and the history of Canada’s First Nations, among other topics.