Predock's Canadian Museum for Human Rights
by Christopher Curtis Mead
"You never know, even if you think you do, where you're going." —Antoine Predock
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is intended to be an educational museum of ideas rather than objects, where we can "explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada," according to the museum's web site.
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A modern invention, the legal formulation of human rights originated with foundational 18th-century documents like the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted by the French National Constituent Assembly in 1789. It was updated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and now includes the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act and the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a bill of rights incorporated into the Canadian Constitution.
Israel Asper, the media magnate who envisioned the museum, wanted a place where Canadians could "look beyond ourselves, and our parochial interests, to reach for the stars and create an iconic structure that would symbolize Canada's commitment to human rights," according to his widow, Babs Asper.
Canada's fifth national museum, and the first to be located outside the national capital of Ottawa, the Museum for Human Rights is presently under construction in Winnipeg, the provincial capital of Manitoba, on a historic site called the Forks at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, where First Nations people once met peacefully to resolve disputes.
Antoine Predock's winning project, designed in an international competition, represents the museum as "a symbolic apparition of ice, clouds and stone set in a field of sweet grass," as the architecture firm describes it.
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This article is excerpted from Roadcut: The Architecture of Antoine Predock by Christopher Curtis Mead, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, University of New Mexico Press.