Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

People

Contractors

Bird Construction

Biography

Bird Construction – a multi-national firm with over a half-billion dollars in sales and one of Canada's top ten national general contractors – began in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1920. Founded by Hubert J. Bird, the enterprise started quite small; within its first decade, the company met with difficulty as an economic depression substantially reduced the rate of construction. Nevertheless, in 1930s and 40s Bird’s operations gained enough trade to justify growth into the Manitoba and Alberta markets. The company was well-positioned to take advantage of the military building boom which would come with the Second World War – and the continued, broader upsurge which would characterize the post-war years, during which offices were opened in Vancouver and Toronto. In 1998 the company opened it’s first American branch, in Seattle, Washington.

Among the early building projects the firm undertook in Manitoba are a machine shop, boiler and engine room, stockyards and utility office building for the Swift Canadian Company in St. Boniface (1937); the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Hangar (near Brandon, 1939), a mix of traditional shingle cladding and more modern design and fenestration; and an addition to the original St. Paul’s College building (1939). Perhaps the most remarkable and historically significant work the firm executed in Manitoba, however, was the post-war construction of Wildwood Park. A sub-division of Fort Garry, Wildwood Park is a uniquely conceived neighbourhood wherein homes were set upon streetless cul-de-sacs. Such a design was inspired by company founder Hubert J. Bird’s airplane view of the 1929 garden-city layout of Radburn, New Jersey, planned by Clarence Stein, Henry Wright and Marjorie Sewell Cautley. The Winnipeg neighbourhood featured homes designed by the firm of Green, Blankstein, Russell and Associates and was financed by Great West Life Assurance.

The firm was also responsible for such important Winnipeg structures as Winnipeg Arena (1430 Maroons Road, 1955) and the Winnipeg Art Gallery (300 Memorial Boulevard, 1970). More recently, the company has executed the renovation of the Metropolitan Theatre (281 Donald Street, 2o12; with Number 10 Architects) and a 16-storey hotel for the CanadInn’s chain near the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. For many years the company was traded on the Winnipeg Stock Exchange.

Projects

Sources

  • “Permits Show $500,000 Gain.” Winnipeg Free Press. 9 October 1937.
  • “Contract Awarded For College Addition.” Winnipeg Free Press. 29 July 1939.
  • “Along the Home Front: News in Brief.” Winnipeg Free Press. 21 April 1945.
  • “350-Unit Project Progresses: Wildwood Houses Nearing Completion.” Winnipeg Free Press. 10 July 1946.
  • “Untitled.” Winnipeg Free Press. 7 January 1955.