As the vision of the late Dr. Israel (Izzy) Asper, the CMHR is an “ideas” museum and begins with a concept, not a collection. Groundbreaking approaches use immersive multimedia, digital interaction, built exhibits, images, film, art, and performance to encourage reflection and dialogue on human rights.

The building itself is an important part of the overall visitor experience. Designed by world-renowned architect Antoine Predock, its unusual geometry and textures symbolize Canada’s human rights aspirations and are influenced by Aboriginal spiritual concepts. Concrete “roots” sprout Prairie tall grass, representing humanity’s connection to the Earth. A limestone “mountain” houses the Museum’s galleries. The visitor’s journey culminates in the light-filled Garden of Contemplation beneath the massive glass “Cloud” and the spiral staircase leading to the shining Tower of Hope.



The building’s irregular and non-repetitive shape did not allow for the use of typical, repetitive construction techniques. As a result, very detailed coordination and meticulous planning had to be implemented at every step.

The building is supported on 136 caissons, resting on bedrock 25 meters (82 feet) below the ground surface, plus an additional 378 precast driven piles. Approximately 17,000 cubic meters (22,235 cubic yards) of concrete (the weight of 9,000 elephants); 6,000 tonnes (6614 tons) of steel (the quantity in 35 train locomotives); 175,000 individual pieces of limestone, alabaster and basalt stone; and 11,148 square meters (120,000 square feet) of glass (the surface area of almost two football fields) were used in the museum’s construction.

“PCL has been a valued partner in the construction of Canada’s newest national museum in Winnipeg, says Stuart Murray, CMHR president and CEO. “The company’s solution-focused approach to the demanding requirements of complex architecture, multiple development phases, and stakeholder needs has been supported by a highly professional and experienced team, who are sensitive to the Corporation’s important role within the community.” 


The concrete work, which was self-performed by PCL, was complicated by the structure’s complex geometry. “Some concrete walls were sloped, concave and tapered, all at the same time, requiring the adoption of some unique formwork and placing methods,” said Rob Duerksen, PCL construction manager.

Project trades were equally challenged. The structural steel frame was so complex (some structural steel connections incorporated the framing of up to 13 members into a single node) that it could not be built without first developing a 3-D model. The model was also critical in building the facility’s custom-framed glass façade, known as the “Cloud,” which stands 12 stories high and comprises approximately 1,200 individual pieces of glazing.

To help install the glass “Cloud,” PCL built 60,000 square feet of vertical, conventional scaffold and a forest of tube-and clamp scaffold to fill the entire Hall of Hope, a 170-foot clear atrium space with an intricate gallery ramp system passing through it. The structural main floor slab of the hall had to be redesigned to hold the scaffold weight, and the scaffold specifically designed to fit around the ramps, giving trades the access required.


The CMHR will encourage visitors from around the world to explore the subject of human rights and to reflect on what they can do personally to bring change to future generations. PCL completed the base building of the CMHR in March 2013 and is currently part of the team putting the finishing touches on the final gallery spaces. In April 2014, PCL received a Global Best Project Award in the Cultural Category from Engineering-News Record. The museum will open its doors on Sept. 20, 2014.