Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a Canadian Crown corporation and national museum located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, adjacent to The Forks. The purpose of the museum is to “explore the subject of human rights with a special but not exclusive reference to Canada, to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue.”

Established in 2008 through the enactment of Bill C-42, an amendment of The Museums Act of Canada, the CMHR is the first new national museum created in Canada since 1967, and it is Canada’s first national museum ever to be located outside the National Capital Region. The Museum held its opening ceremonies on 19 September 2014.

View from the 8th floor. Roughly 220 feet above street level.

The Himalayan Towers of China

In the Western Sichuan province, between central China and the Tibetan Autonomous Region, there exist hundreds of mysterious stone towers, some of them over 200 feet tall. They dot the valleys and the foothills of the Himalayas, often clustered near villages where they have been repurposed as stables for yaks and ponies. Others are abandoned and in a state of disrepair; their wooden stairs gone and roof collapsed. Although they clearly exist for centuries, the purpose and origin of these structures remain a mystery, and even the local residents are ignorant of their history

The towers were first brought to the attention of the outside world by French explorer Frederique Darragon, who went to Tibet in 1998 to research snow leopards, but instead fell under the spell of these enigmatic structures. Darragon spent the next five years studying the towers. She counted them, mapped them, photographed them, and even climbed them when possible to collect samples of wood from the beams for analysis. But when she talked to people living in proximity to the towers, she was surprised to learn that nobody knew who built them and for what purpose. A search among the texts in the local Buddhist monasteries was also unfruitful. However, she did find a few references to the towers in some Chinese annals and in the diaries of 19th-century European travelers to the region, but nobody made any attempts to study them or unravel the puzzle.

The lack of local knowledge about the towers’ origin could be due to the region’s history and geography. The region where the towers are found has been historically occupied by different mountain tribes who have maintained isolation for centuries. Due to the diverse nature of their origins and the fragmented terrain in which they live, the languages and dialects they speak are vastly different from one another. “Even from one valley to the next, the locals couldn’t speak to each other,” Darragon says in a documentary titled Secret Towers of the Himalayas, produced by her friend Michel Peissel. Darragon believes that knowledge of the towers might have been previously passed down through oral tradition, but now forgotten as dialects changed or vanished.

Himalayan towers depicted in a painting of the Jinchuan campaigns.

These monumental structures were built using a mixture of cut stone, brick, and timber and come in various shapes including square, polygon, and star-shaped with up to 12 vertices. They contain very little mortar and due to the wooded planks and beams that intersperse between the stones, these robust constructions are able to absorb the force of violent shaking that accompany earthquakes. Especially the star-shaped construction that make the structures less susceptible to tremors.

By conducting radiocarbon dating of the wood in the towers, Darragon determined that these towers are between 600 to 1,000 years old. Darragon believes the towers did not serve a single purpose, but its use differed from valley to valley. In Miniak, for example, she believes that many were watchtowers. She bases her conclusions upon such observations like the entrance being several stories above the ground, and the location of the towers where trade routes met. In Kongpo and Damba, the towers seem to be primarily symbols of wealth and pride. According to one tale, the towers were built by locals who grew rich by trading with Mongol-ruled China.

Many of the towers are now in a derelict state. Darragon is working to get the towers listed under UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The designation would likely help protect the towers and raise money to restore them. She is also trying to enlist Sichuan University’s help in studying the structures. In 2006, the stone towers were placed on the watch list of the World’s Monument Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world.

The Stuttgart Library

The Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart (formerly Stadtbücherei Stuttgart) is the public library of the city of Stuttgart, Germany. It is organized as a department of the city’s cultural office and comprises the central library, 17 city district libraries, and two bookmobiles. In 2013, it received the national award as Library of the Year.

The new library of Stuttgart is a monolithic cube which gathers all the ancient libraries in one building. This building is the outcome of an international competition won by Eun Young Yi in 1999. Part of the Masterplan from Stuttgart 21, the building has become a new landmark for the city. The construction of the library started in 2010 and ended the 24th of October 2011. Its cost amounted to about 80 million euros which included 4 million euros for the interior spaces. The library welcomes almost 2 million visitors each year.

The Vertical Forest of Milan


Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) is a pair of residential towers in the Porta Nuova district of Milan, Italy, between Via Gaetano de Castillia and Via Federico Confalonieri near Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station. They have a height of 110 metres (360 ft) and 76 metres (249 ft) and will host more than 900 trees (approximately 550 and 350 trees in the first and second towers respectively) on 8,900 square metres (96,000 sq ft) of terraces. Within the complex is also an 11-story office building; its facade does not host plants.

The towers were designed by Boeri Studio (Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra). It also involved input from horticulturalists and botanists.

The building was inaugurated in October 2014.


The project was designed as part of the rehabilitation of the historic district of Milan between Via De Castillia and Confalonieri. It consists of two residential towers of which the largest is 26 floors and 110 meters high (called Torre E) and the smaller tower is 18 floors and 76 meters high (called Torre D). It contains 400 condominium units priced from 3,000 – 12,000 Euro per square metre.

It is called Bosco Verticale because each tower houses trees between three and six meters which help mitigate smog and produce oxygen. It is also used to moderate temperatures in the building in the winter and summer. The plants also attenuate noise. The design was tested in a wind tunnel to ensure the trees would not topple from gusts of wind. Botanists and horticulturalists were consulted by the engineering team to ensure that the structure could bear the load imposed by the plants. The steel-reinforced concrete balconies are designed to be 28 cm thick, with 1.30 metre parapets.


The construction of the towers began in late 2009 and early 2010, involving 6,000 onsite construction workers. Between mid-2010 and early 2011 construction progressed very slowly and the towers rose by only five floors while the core rose to the seventh floor. Construction progressed throughout 2011, and by the beginning of 2012 the structures were completed, and construction of the facades and installation of the plants began on 13 June 2012. The building was inaugurated in October 2014.

On April 11, 2012, one of the buildings was used as a temporary art gallery and opened to the public for an art exhibition hosted during Milan Fashion Week.

The two buildings have 730 trees (480 large, 250 small), 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 perennials and ground cover on its facades. The original design had specified 1,280 tall plants and 920 short plants encompassing 50 species. Overall, the vegetation is the equivalent of that found in a one hectare woodlot. The innovative use of heat-pump technology is helping to slash heating and cooling costs.


On November 19, 2014, Bosco Verticale won the International Highrise Award, prestigious international competition bestowed every two years, honouring excellence in recently constructed buildings that stand a minimum of 100 meters (328 feet) tall. The five finalists were selected from 26 nominees in 17 countries.

On the 12th of November 2015, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Awards Jury selected Bosco Verticale, Milan, as the overall “2015 Best Tall Building Worldwide” at the 14th Annual CTBUH International Best Tall Building Awards Symposium, Ceremony & Dinner, celebrated at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.

Gardeners rappel down ropes








Welcome to the jungle: plants overrun Chinese apartment blocks

Living in a home surrounded by greenery is on every person’s wish list, but someone very clearly said, ‘be careful what you wish for’. An experimental green housing project in a Chinese megacity had residents overjoyed with the fact that they have their own thriving green patch to live around. This complex is Chengdu’s Qiyi City Forest Garden that takes pride in standing tall as a vertical forest. All of the 826 apartments were sold out by April of 2020. The apartment highlight is the balcony area that’s fitted with as many as 20 types of plants that provide lush greenery and filters air and noise pollution too.

In only a matter of a few months, this Chinese complex went from eco-paradise to veritable hell. The apartments that are left unoccupied by tenants have been occupied by hoards of pesky insects that have completely ruined the facade of the building making it look like a desolate, run-down facility. The infestation of mosquitoes has kept tenants away and only about 10 families have moved in. The remaining eight towers of 30 floors each have been overrun by their own plants causing the mosquito invasion. What could be a vision in green if pruned and cared for properly is seen rotting in neglected balconies, with branches hanging over railings all over the towers making them look nightmarish so much that some plants have completely swallowed some balconies?

Chengdu is one of the major cities in China with a severe smog problem. This vertical forest idea was a way of combating everyday battles that comes with air and noise pollution but guess mosquitoes didn’t feature in the scheme of things. The project developer said in response that they will provide maintenance four times a year and will also step up pest control efforts.

The mini houses of Winnipeg’s North End

The area of Winnipeg known as the North End has a distinct character all its own.  Today it is mainly known for its violence and large distinct cultural groups.  Over the past few decades a large Aboriginal population has been established.  But going back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the North End was home to large Eastern European groups.  And it is still this way today.

Many people of Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish and German heritage settled in the North End.  Winnipeg was becoming an industrial city 100 years ago and many of the previously mentioned groups worked in the blue collar labour force.  Wages weren’t high back then and therefore workers could not afford the large houses that were being built in the southern part of the city.  So the people built smaller houses in the North End on streets such as Redwood, Boyd and Flora.  Many were built from 1905-1920.  And most are still in use today.  Some are no more than 440 square feet.  The same size as a small apartment.  But at least the hard working North Enders could be proud of owning their own houses.♦




Ten of the World’s Largest Churches  

1. St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City, Rome)



2. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, Aparecida, Brazil.


3. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as Seville Cathedral, Seville (Andalusia, Spain).


4. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, officially the Cathedral Church of Saint John: The Great Divine in the City and Diocese of New York, is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

Enclave at the Cathedral, 400 West 113th Street, New York, NY Handel Architects The Brodsky Organization Nancy Packes Inc. Rendering by Archpartners

5. Milan Cathedral is the cathedral church of Milan, Italy.


6. The Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń is a Roman Catholic church located in the village of Licheń Stary near Konin in the Greater Poland Voivodeship in Poland.


7. Liverpool Cathedral is the Church of England Cathedral of the Diocese of Liverpool, built on St James’s Mount in Liverpool and is the seat of the Bishop of Liverpool.

Birdseye view of the Liverpool Cathedral in Liverpool, UK

The total external length of the building, including the Lady Chapel (dedicated to the Blessed Virgin), is 207 yards (189 m) making it the longest cathedral in the world; its internal length is 160 yards (150 m). With a height of 331 feet (101 m) it is also one of the world’s tallest non-spired church buildings and the third-tallest structure in the city of Liverpool.


8. Ulm Minster is a Lutheran church located in Ulm, Germany.


It is the tallest church in the world, and the 4th tallest structure built before the 20th century, with a steeple measuring 161.5 metres (530 ft) and containing 768 steps.


9. The Cathedral of Our Lady is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium.


10. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine on Westmount Summit in Montreal, Quebec. It is Canada’s largest church.