Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Places

Buildings

Metro Plaza

Address:101 Pembina Highway
Use:Community Centre
Original Use:Public Plaza
Constructed:1966
Architects:Étienne Gaboury
Contractors:F.W. Sawatsky Construction Ltd.

More Information

Locally referred to as the “bear pit,” this plaza was largely demolished in 1987 with the construction of the new River Osborne Community Centre, designed by Number Ten Architectural Group.

Metro Plaza was sunken below street level to provide an urban “breathing space,” an "oasis" removed from the noise of nearby traffic. Featuring sweeping areas of concrete geometric forms, small landscaped areas and a fountain, this space demonstrated the sometime Brutalist tendency to recollect ancient architectural aesthetics, in this case presenting a faint echo of the ruins of Mexico’s Tenochtitlan. It was never well – received by the neighbouring community and eventually became a place of petty crime and little use. Still visible are the concrete perimeter walls and the large sculptural element – since modified into signage – which features a raw, vertically patterned concrete and other inscribed decoration.

Recognition and Awards

  • Metro Plaza received a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada award in 1966 and a Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment in 1971

Design Characteristics

  • Cost of Construction: $70,000
  • Concrete structure was considered controversial from the date of completion
  • On the north-east corner of the old Gladstone School grounds, the plaza was recessed about six feet below surface level so traffic noises flows over it; the intention was that person sitting in the sunken area would not be aware they were at one of the city's busiest intersections
  • Architect's intent was to create an "oasis of tranquility"
  • Tyndall blocks took up about half of the plaza floor, separated to allow grass to creep through and soften the setting
  • Concrete benches were inset at various levels in the sloping walls allow contemplation of the activities within the plaza and passing traffic around it
  • A focal point in the plaza was a reflecting pool with a fountain
  • Many of features no longer visible as major construction in 1987 removed or covered them in soil and planting
  • The entrance to the park is marked by two towering concrete walls, which remain in place