Google’s top two hits for “architecture in Winnipeg” are the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation and, not surprisingly, 5468796 Architecture. This year, the young firm claimed the Future Project of the Year Award at the World Architecture Festival for its proposed design of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and in 2013 it received the Professional Prix de Rome for Table for 12, a traveling dinner event that completed its international tour with a feast for 1,200 in Winnipeg last May. A year before that, they represented Canada at the Venice architecture biennale with their Migrating Landscapes exhibit.
The firm’s hometown also serves as a willing canvas, with numerous residential projects recently completed or currently underway. The multi-unit buildings by 5468796 are especially ground-breaking for the region; the three pictured here – 548 Stradbrook, the Oz condos and the YouCube townhomes – range from construction budgets of $1.6 million (eight units) to $6.7 million (25 units), all incorporating efficiencies to optimize public spaces by including rooftop decks and common green space.
With two of the projects located close to downtown, in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, they reflect a sense of place while clearly paving new roads for innovation. The smaller project, 548 Stradbrook, is an eight-unit infill on a street with turn-of-the-century homes and 100-year-old elm trees. In contrast, the building’s reflective glass cladding conveys a modern sensibility, while literally turning the attention back onto the environment in which the structure resides. The tempered panels are overlaid like shingles, both vertically and horizontally across the facade.
Nearby, a larger project, Oz condominiums, also makes a contemporary statement within a heritage neighbourhood – with a variety of one- and two-bedroom units, 25 in all, that are stacked in a compact L-shaped plan that allows for central courtyards and large exterior decks. Wrapped in slatted, black metal cladding, the building provides filtered views and ample indoor daylight.
A project due for completion next year represents a dynamic renewal for another Winnipeg neighbourhood, putting 18 units in an area that was previously neglected and mostly industrial. The YouCube townhomes provide two standard unit sizes with two interior layout options, in three or four storeys, where the living space can be either on the main floor or on the upper levels. Clad in white stucco, the complex appears deceptively simple at first glance; within, the variety of angles and ceiling heights up to nearly 11 metres create bright and engaging living spaces, some of which are designed for live-work access.
All of these projects show that multi-unit development can be a realm for innovation – in cities big and small. And, in Winnipeg, 5468796 Architecture is changing the face of the city one building at a time.