Planning the Museum

Giving Shape to an Idea

Idea – The Canadian Museum for Human Rights began with an idea—that all human beings have the right to freedom, equality and respect in their lives and in their government. In planning the building, the first step was coming up with a way to give physical shape to the idea.

Image – The journey is an upward one as we struggle towards fully realized human rights around the world. Visitors to the Museum will experience that journey symbolically as they progress through the building.

Icon – The heart of the building has been designed as an immense ”glass cloud”, a symbol of light and hope. Inspiration – The design begins with the landscape. Glass and stone combine to evoke the spirit of Canada—the Prairies, the northern lights, snow and ice, the roots of trees, and birds flying.

Towards Human Rights  

The Roots – The Museum has four foundations—or “roots”—where your journey begins. Prairie grasses grow on three of the “roots,” while the inside space is used respectively for temporary galleries, for classrooms, and for the restaurant, gift shop and ticket office. The fourth root is an outdoor amphitheatre and will eventually house a theatre. Wander through the trees and along pathways that connect to The Forks National Historic Site. Then come inside, where you’ll be welcomed into the Great Hall. Look up! A suspended stone ceiling opens upward to show how human rights brighten the world.

The Mountain – Follow some 800 metres of white alabaster ramp, lit from within. Notice how you are moving steadily upward, passing the entrances to various exhibit galleries, as you trace the journey towards human rights. 
In the Mountain Galleries, high ceilings give a sense of light, airiness and hope as you pass through thousands of square metres of permanent exhibits.In the Hall of Hope, you enter the heart of the building.  Two steep black walls, criss-crossed by glowing ramps of white alabaster, rise to a dramatic 57 metres. 

The Glass Cloud – Great sheets of glass fold like the wings of doves around the northern façade. Natural light floods into the upper levels, housing the Museum staff offices.

In the Garden of Contemplation, water runs over black volcanic stone amid the greenery. From here you can see the work being done by Museum staff to achieve human rights. 

Tower of Hope – Finally, you’ve arrived at the top of a 23-storey glass spire, rising 100 metres into the sky. Look out from the observation deck towards the horizon. The deck opens to the sky and to a panorama of Prairie landscape. At night, the tower is illuminated as a symbol of enlightenment, the goal of the human rights journey.