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Arriving later at the office of the firm 5468796 in the Exchange District, I walk under neon-pink T-shirts hanging over the entrance; Lego models are strewn about the interior. Sasa Radulovic, one of the two founders and three principals in the hottest architecture practice in town – arguably, one of the hottest in the nation – invites me in, his hair styled in a shape that's not unlike that of the human rights museum. Radulovic, originally from Bosnia, and Johanna Hurme, his Finnish business partner, curated the Canadian exhibit on migrations at the most recent Venice Biennale in Architecture, together with collaborator Jae-Sung Chon. Their firm, named after its business registration number, is behind many bold new additions to Winnipeg's cityscape.

Étienne GabouryIn the hot seat: Étienne Gaboury at home, seated on a chair of his own design

Hurme and Radulovic slapped a black facade on the old Avenue on Portage building and punctured it with different-size shiny balconies, repurposing vacant offices into apartments and adding a swank, inviting lobby. Amid the first-generation skyscrapers in the Exchange District, they dropped a silvery nine-metre cube that demonstrates their keen interest in functionality. The aluminum curtain surrounding it retreats, revealing an outdoor stage that will be put to use this month during the electronic music festival. They show me a new condo in the form of a black disc on stilts, like a UFO that's about to land. "The stilts make room for parking under the disc," Hurme says. The firm's housing units invariably have a strong visual identity, but they're also affordable – design, actually, within reach.

St. Boniface CathedralÉtienne Gaboury’s stained-glass windows in the St. Boniface Cathedral

Like their own designs, many of the new buildings I see during my week in Winnipeg hint at a productive tension between the city's long-time progressivism and the regional centre's small-c conservatism. Sure, that building's pretty, but how will it weather our winters? How much did that cost? Competitive collegiality is one reason the city's design has taken a great leap forward. The other just may be hard-headed clients who keep the design tribe honest, requiring not only that the buildings look good but that they do their assigned job effectively.

Precious Blood ChurchFor the iconic Precious Blood Church, Gaboury created a teepee-like structure that reaches skyward.



Comments… or add another

Dennis Bruneau

Saturday, June 1st 2013 12:23
Great article. The author did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the city as it relates to architecture and design. The list of travel essentials at the end is also spot-on!

Peter ORourke

Monday, June 3rd 2013 19:35
I am an ex-Winnipegers.

The museum is superb and the airport will bring new excitement to the city. When I lived there there was a proposal to build a symbol of a gateway to the west like the arch is in St. Louis. That arch has put St Louis on the map. Now with all the excitement surrounding the city it is time to build an exciting gateway to the west.

Peter O'Rourke


Sunday, July 7th 2013 12:48
The 5468796 Architecture picture in hanging chair shoes are intriguing I would like to get a some

Slobodan Mitrovic

Monday, April 28th 2014 22:47
Bravo Johanna & Sasa!!!
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