The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation is a registered charity with a mandate to educate the public about architecture. We are a group of architects, historians and interested individuals, with a passion for Winnipeg's architecture. Our particular emphasis is on the modernist era of 1945 - 1975 but the site includes information on more contemporary architecture, landscape architecture and public art.
WAF's research programme began in 1996 and has included inventorying of a range of Winnipeg's buildings including the downtown, schools, universities and places of worship from the post-1945 period. We have undertaken research on the architects and other professionals involved with building and landscape design, which has been supplemented by an Oral History programme.
Please explore the site to see the Places page, which features research on Winnipeg buildings and landscapes, with new material added regularly. The Exhibits page has virtual exhibits on materials and technology. The Tours page has our series of downloadable tours for Winnipeg buildings and neighbourhoods. WAF regularly offers of talks, walks, exhibits and other events, which are posted on the Events page. As well, WAF curates the annual Architecture+Design Film Festival and the bi-monthly Architecture+Film series.
In the Shop, you will find a range of merchandise and publications showcasing Winnipeg architecture.
About the Site
Settled in the 1870s, the city of Winnipeg has had two distinct periods of economic growth and of architectural innovation, the 1900-1912 period and the 1950s-1960s. In each instance, it was a strong and direct connection to Chicago and its new architectural ideas which led to an interesting legacy of design. The transformation of Winnipeg from a modest pioneer settlement to western Canada’s largest metropolitan centre, during the early 1900s, resulted in a concentration of early skyscrapers and one of the best remaining warehouse districts in North America. Designed by a number of well-known North American architects, these buildings reflected an approach to architecture that was “innovative, functional and stylish”. Prior to the First World War, the agriculturally based economy of Winnipeg slowed dramatically. Coupled with a lack of development pressures, this resulted in a large number of these early buildings remaining.
It was not until the 1950s, that the needs of the post-war generation prompted a new era of design and construction. This coincided with a social and economic climate in Winnipeg that was conducive to innovation. The University of Manitoba School of Architecture had a new director, John Russell, who was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and retained strong links to that school and to “the east-coast American architectural establishment”. Many of the graduates from Manitoba decided to pursue graduate studies in Chicago, Boston and New York but returned to Winnipeg to practice.
By the 1950s the University of Manitoba had an “entire generation of students and teachers ... in place who understood what modernism was and what it implied, and who were able to handle its ideas and forms in a mature way.” (Kelly Crossman,1999) Winnipeg’s representative sample of architecture from 1945 to 1975 is largely the product of this strong modernist ethic in the University of Manitoba’s School of Architecture and the alumni who remained and practised in the city. Again, the lack of significant development pressure in the downtown has resulted in a considerable number of these buildings remaining.
Winnipeg was similar to most other North American cities in experiencing a major population boom in the 1950s. The expansion of both religious and educational facilities during that period, to meet the increased demands, resulted in an excellent collection of building designs that were both innovative and architecturally interesting.
A wealth of Winnipeg buildings (residential, commercial and institutional) from the 1950s and 1960s remain, however, development pressures are now threatening the buildings, through either “updating” or demolition.
Please enjoy the information about these buildings and landscapes. We hope you will be encouraged to explore them in person.