Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Human rights museum a modern marvel of geometric complexity

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There's a very good chance the builders and architects of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights were the most brilliant students in your high school geometry class.

It's also possible they couldn't tell their protractor from pi.

The newest addition to Winnipeg's landscape has an interior full of walls, walkways, staircases and beams criss-crossing the $300-million-plus project at virtually every angle with the possible exception of 90 degrees. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the major walls are sloped at unusual angles, with no two intersections the same. It was described on more than one occasion during a media tour on Friday as a "sculpture" rather than a building.

"As builders, we may never get a chance to work on a project so complicated and cool," said Sean Barnes, vice-president and district manager for PCL Constructors, the museum's general contractor.

Unlike most buildings where stairs take people up upon entering, the museum's entrance takes visitors down into darkness. Once the galleries are in place, they will embark on a "journey to light" and gradually rise up into the museum's cloud, a structural steel custom frame for the glass surrounding the southwest face.

The design is the creation of renowned U.S. architect Antoine Predock, who won the museum's international design competition in 2004.

Scott Stirton, CEO of Smith Carter Architects, the project's executive architects, said it is one of the most challenging the Winnipeg-based firm has ever worked on.

"It's one of the more geometrically complex buildings in Canada," he said.

The museum was also designed to be one of the most accessible buildings in the world. For example, the winding ramps connecting its 11 galleries have two sets of handrails as well as transition strips periodically along the floor to indicate to vision-impaired visitors the grade is increasing or decreasing.

"The public will not be using stairs. They'll use either the (glass) elevators or the ramps," said Rob Duerksen, construction manager for PCL, which has had about 1,500 people working on the museum.

The project's complexity meant there were many times when workers from various trades worked directly above and below other tradespeople.

"The trust that one trade had with another trade's work was (incredible)," he said.

Next up for the museum is the construction of the galleries, a process that will begin shortly and last several months. Final designs are also being prepared for the in-house restaurant, which will be run by Inn at The Forks.

The museum's grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 20.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2014 A15

History

Updated on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 9:50 AM CST: Changes headline

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