The Canadian Museum for Human Rights: Utopian Architecture on the Red River
The recently completed Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is the first Canadian Federal Museum to be built outside of Ottawa. Its programmatic ambitions are notable and its location at the “Forks”, the confluence of the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers, is heavily laden with symbolic connotations. Specifically, the siting of the museum might be understood as recognizing Canada’s very troubled history regarding its Indigenous peoples as documented in the “Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” (2015).
This presentation examines the siting and architecture of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in relation to a broader history of utopian impulses in architectural design and raises the question as to whether “monumentality” in any form is an appropriate architectural response to histories of human rights and genocide.
Ralph Stern received his professional and academic education in the United States and Germany. He has held professional licensure in Germany (Berlin), and maintains professional licensure in the United States (New York) and in Canada (Manitoba), and is an active member of the Council of the Manitoba Architect’s Association (2011-current).
He has extensive international teaching experience. Prior to joining the University of Manitoba as Dean of the Faculty of Architecture (2010-2015) and Professor (2010-current), Professor Stern taught in the United States and Europe, including the Technical University Berlin and the University of the Arts Berlin, where he was co-director of the Program for Urban Processes. He served as Visiting Faculty for the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, and the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art Program at MIT. He has also been a Research Associate in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Cambridge and a Visiting Fellow at the Bauhaus University Weimar (2016).
He lectures extensively, presenting research in the United States at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, MIT, University of Chicago, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Dallas Architecture Forum. In Europe he has lectured at the Architectural Association London, University of Edinburgh, Cambridge University, American Academy in Rome / Bibliotheca Hertziana, Werner Oechslin Foundation, Art Historical Institute of Heidelberg University, Berlin Academy of the Arts, the Bauhaus University Weimar, the University of Szeged (2017) and the Universidad Rafael Landívar (2018) among others. He is currently working on topics related to the aesthetics of the sublime as well as decolonization and Indigenous aesthetics.