Established in 2007, 5468796 Architecture is a Winnipeg firm which has nevertheless received substantial local and international attention for daring and experimental designs in its short period of operation. The practice – which began as a professional partnership between Sasa Radulovic, Johanna Hurme and Colin Neufeld– has described its approach as architecture against ambivalence and an examination of its work confirms this perspective. Radulovic and Hurme previously worked together at Cohlmeyer Architects; at the time of the foundation of 5468796 Architecture, it was the first new architectural start-up in Winnipeg in approximately twenty years. The practice’s unusual moniker derives from its corporate and legal registration number; the selection of this designation rather than one based on the organization’s founders in part symbolizes the collective spirit which animates the office’s practice. 5468796 now consists of a group of young professionals who commonly work around a single table, seeking common inspiration to conceive of innovative solutions to varied demands.
Amongst the firm’s initial project’s was youCube, an eighteen unit housing development. 5468796’s design created suites which vary in height from three to four storeys and feature rooftop terraces set a lively and sculptural formation and unified by a white stucco skin. The plan won the office a 2009 Canadian Architect Award of Merit and an Architectural Review Future Projects Award. This inventive approach to multi-family residential work is a theme throughout the practice’s oeuvre. Another example is Centre Village. Here twenty-five units are cleverly fit onto a constricted urban lot by means of a canny manipulation of two types of housing blocks. The scheme allows each suite its own exterior entrance, as well as a through street, courtyard and a large a number of terraces. As at youCube the project is dressed in white stucco, though here enlivened by the dressing of the many windows with cowlings in a vivacious orange hue. A comparable work is the firm’s design for Bloc_10, a condominium complex which likewise features an unusual, cantilevered arrangement of multi-storey suites that contain numerous openings to the outdoors. Here the white stucco and glass core is screened by a wooden, vertical slats which provide privacy and shade while enlivening the structure’s façades. The design for this project won the firm a Governor General’s Medal. Other similar residential schemes the practice has participated in include Welcome Place and BGBX, the latter of which sees an industrial site serves as inspiration for a design which blends an exterior of a “big-box” style with a more detailed and intimate approach around an interior public green space, featuring a variegated façade of green and yellow panels. The practice is also presently engaged in the design of 62M, a forty-unit residential project which consists of a large circular block suspended over a network of slender columns.
Another project for which the firm has gained a great deal of attention is its Old Market Square Stage – often referred to as “The Cube.” Here 5468796 took the initial programme, to create an outdoor stage, as the starting point to create an iconic sculptural construction which engages passers-by regardless of its event calendar. The exterior of the eight metre cube is formulated of 18,000 angled aluminum pieces strung together on aircraft cable; on its audience facing front this skin acts as a flexible mesh curtain which can be pulled aside to uncover the concrete stage within. Not far from this site the firm was also responsible for the design of new office building for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Here – partly in response to space constraints – 5468796 cantilevered the structure’s stairwell around outer edge of a new glass and dark metal block, allowing for additional interior space and natural light while rendering the façade into a distinctive, divided, diagonal hallmark. A further recent design marks the firm’s ingress into the realm of renovation and restoration: The Avenue on Portage (). Here two long dormant historic commercial buildings were transformed into seventy-five rental apartments and approximately 2,500 square metres of commercial space. The design unifies the two structures visually by means of matching colour and a striking, angular ground-level frontage of matching materials and glass whose shape and appearance draws looks and pedestrians inward. This detail is complimented by the polished aluminum and steel balconies dramatically cantilevered above and making new use of extant window openings.
Notably, in 2012, 5468796 was selected to co-curate (with Jae-Sung Chon) Canada's official submission to the Venice Biennale in Architecture. The result, entitled Migrating Landscapes, was a modifiable installation featuring eighteen video narratives, a variety of scale models by emerging architects and a sculptural terrain of wooden slats speaking to themes of perception, migration and immigration.