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Canada Welcomes Two Major Museum Projects

Museum of Human Rights (top and above) Renderings Courtesy Antoine Predock Architects

War Museum (above)
Photography © Harry Foster, CMC

Largely because of government spending priorities and low levels of philanthropic giving, decades can pass in Canada without the prospect of any new national museums. Yet as luck would have it, within three weeks this spring, New Mexico architect Antoine Predock won a competition to design the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the new Canadian War Museum, designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects opened in Ottawa.

Predock’s design, unveiled on April 15, will be set on a massive Tyndal limestone bed, rising 300 feet like a glassenclosed rock formation, topped by a crystalline tower.The hard effect will be softened by local tall-grass plantings, trees, and a central plaza illuminated by electronic information display panels. The museum is expected to cost nearly $C300 million.

Predock’s lyrical description of his design, unveiled April 15, is that of a “symbolic apparition of ice, clouds and stone set in a field of sweet grass.” A Ttower of hope, he says, and a “beacon for humanity.”

His design was also a beacon for the review committee, which chose Predock over two Montreal architectural finalists, and from an original 62 firms in 21 countries. New York museum planner Ralph Appelbaum will handle the exhibit design, highlighting the global sweep of human rights struggles, including the creation of Canada’s Charter of Rights. When the museum opens in three or four years it is bound to be the most dazzling piece in the otherwise conventional architectural landscape of Manitoba’s provincial capital.

Halfway across the country, the 440,000-square-foot Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is set to open on May 8. It too tells a story— of Canada’s military history and the implements of war— recalling lives sacrificed in battle.

Moriyama & Teshima Architects, Toronto were joined by Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects, Ottawa, in the design of the $C132 million, low-profile museum. It rises about 75 feet above the nearby Ottawa River, and features sloping glass walls and a copper-clad roof..

Moriyama notes the museum emphasizes sustainability. It uses river water for cooling, concrete made with recycled fly ash, low-maintenance grasses on its roof, operable windows, and energy-efficient HVAC systems. The central architectural theme, regeneration, is similar to other developments proposed for a desolate river site near the Parliament Buildings.

Albert Warson