|Address:||545-589 Balmoral Street|
Cohlmeyer Architecture Ltd.
|Tours:||Part of the QR Code Tour|
Serving underprivileged families, Winnipeg’s Centre Village housing cooperative utilizes design to help revitalize a neglected inner-city neighbourhood and to pro-vide its residents with a unique setting that is inspiring pride and community.
The site was an abandoned L-shaped lot zoned for six single-family houses. In-stead, the project established a micro village with 25-dwellings (15,000 square feet) within six, three-storey blocks that would be easy to build and maintain. The blocks’ arrangement both defines and animates public spaces—a through-street and a shared court-yard, that weave the city through the project and provide amenities for both resi-dents and the surrounding neighbourhood. The landscaped courtyard offers a calm and protected place for children to play, and the new street is an informal meeting place. Each dwelling has its own entrance, either at grade or up an exterior stair-case, thus reducing internal circulation and the size of the overall building, and also prompting residents to connect and get to know one another.
As implied in the project’s moniker, the structure possesses village-like aspect, one accentuated by its courtyard, exterior staircases, balconies and alleyways. On the one hand, with its irregularity (in plan and elevation) and materiality, this appearance recalls vernacular arrangements such as historic mediterranean Greek settlements and even urban complexes found in Africa and the Middle East. On the other Centre Village also looks something like the early modernist constructions such as the Stuttgart housing project the Weissenhof Estate, thrown in a blender. As at Stuttgart – and in Greece – the use of humble stucco here is a gesture to economic necessity, but this choice is also aestheticized. The neo-modernist irregular design also recalls the divergent modernism of post-war architects such as Aldo van Eyck, even as a core functionalism echoes more closely modern practices of the interwar period. The use of orange as a punctuation mark and the unusual array of windows also speaks to contemporary trends and practices, paralleling Los Angeles condominium development Habitat 15 by Predock Frane Architects, winner of a 2009 American Institute of Architects Design Award.