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Canadian Museum for Human Rights

An iconic design drawing inspiration from Canada’s natural scenery

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Structural)

Winnipeg, MB

Architect: Antoine Predock, Architect
Smith Carter Architects

Completion: 2014
Category: Cultural

Project Type: Structural Engineering, Building Structures,

Feature Structures

Attribution: Crispin Howes*


2014–CCE Award of Excellence (Buildings Category)
2014–CCE Awards–Schreyer Award

2014–CISC National Award of Excellence in Engineering

2014–Engineering News Record–“Best Global Building”


May 2014–Construction Canada

Related Project

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Stone)

Located at the confluence of the historic Red and Assiniboine rivers in Winnipeg, MB, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) was the first new national museum created in Canada since 1967. The architectural design for the Museum was selected from an international competition that included 62 submissions from 21 countries. Antoine Predock’s winning design drew inspiration from the natural scenery and open spaces Canada. The building’s collective architectural forms were arranged about a journey narrative that begins within the earth and primordial darkness the gradually ascends to light and sky above.

The structural design of this landmark building was developed with close collaboration with the architects and contractors. This collaboration yielded unique solutions that brought the architectural vision to the forefront while adeptly addressing technical challenges in the background. 

The foundations of 328-ft tall building accommodate deep alluvial deposits which overlay the site with a solution of drilled cast-in-place concrete caissons combined with driven precast piles that bear on sound rock more than 30-ft below grade. The ground floor cast-in-place structural system combined mat foundations, pile and caisson caps, grade beams, and two-way slabs to accommodate deep frost penetration, settlement of alluvial deposits, and significant loads from the massive building above. The lower portion of the building is characterized by the four “Roots” which resemble the upper tips of ancient geological formations originating deep in the earth below. A solution of curved and tilted concrete walls and sloping concrete roof slabs achieve the vision for the architectural form while providing acoustic barrier for the program areas within the “Roots.” The program areas include an auditorium, exhibition spaces, and classrooms. The peaks of the “Roots” are connected with an assembly area referred to as the “Garden of Contemplation”. Clad in basalt stone and containing a water feature, the floor area is supported with a two-way structural steel truss system to provide a column-free space below for a special events space.

Journeying upward is the “Mountain”, a series of interlocking volumes clad in local tyndall limestone. A solution of structural steel dia-grid truss walls with long span structural steel floors is employed to provide column-free exhibition spaces with the interior of the “Mountain”. The exhibition spaces are connected thru a series of onyx-clad sloping ramps spanning across an atrium within the “Mountain” referred to as the “Hall of Hope”. A light-filled atrium adjacent to the “Mountain” and above the “Garden of Contemplation” is referred to as the “Cloud”. The “Cloud” is enclosed by massive structural glass curved walls envisioned as abstract ephemeral wings of a white dove that embrace the mythic stone “Mountain”. Sloped structural steel columns up to 85-ft in height support the “Cloud” walls and a roof structure of radiating long-span structural steel trusses above the atrium. The architecturally exposed structural steel framing configuration is visually inspired by the root systems of plants or trees. Extending upwards by 150-ft on top of the “Cloud” roof is the “Tower of Hope”. The “Tower” is clad in structural glass panels and framed with series from tapered and tilted vertical structural steel trusses. The architectural form of the “Tower” is inspired by ice flow formations on the adjacent rivers and serves as a focal point to the building. The “Tower” also contains an observation area where visitors to the Museum can look across the city to the surrounding prairie.

A BIM approach to delivering the LEED® Silver certified building was essential for design, coordination, and construction within a reasonable timeline. Extensive studies of geometrical rationalization balanced constructability with respect with the vision for the architectural forms. Common BIM tools, at the time, were still maturing and custom computational solutions were developed to supplement the tools to accurately model the geometry of the structural framing.

*Project delivered by Principal prior to joining PICCO

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