Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

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Helmut Peters

Biography

Helmut Peters was a partner in the architectural firm of Duncan Rattray Peters Searle Christie for several years before branching out to become a developer. He had obtained his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Manitoba in 1959. From September 1959 until June 1962, Peters was employed by Smith Carter Searle, primarily doing working drawings. He had been a registered architect since January 1962.

Early in 1963, he joined in a partnership with John Duncan, Michael Rattray and Samuel Searle. It is not known what projects the firm undertook in these first years other than a hospital in Lynn Lake, until they merged with partners Herbert Moody and Robert Moore, along with principal James Christie, to become Moody Moore Duncan Rattray Peters Searle Christie in 1969. For obvious reasons, it was a relief to all when a change in the Architects Act in the mid-seventies allowed professional firms to have a name other than that of their component partners. They quickly changed to MMP Architects, short for Moody Moore Partners.

MMP had a fresh start in 1969. Its two senior partners, Herbert H.G. Moody and Robert Moore, were seeking non-active status, so they ensured that their firm’s projects were well underway and then faded to the background. The new infusion of talent which Peters and his colleagues brought was put to work on a large apartment/office complex adjacent to Moody and Moore’s design for the new St. Stephen’s Broadway Church. Although the church was built, the high-rise adjacent was scrapped when it was thought to be unfeasible.

There was a major downturn in construction at this time and a decrease in the amount of government spending for health care and educational facilities. Projects for the firm in the early 1970s include the design of Westwood Collegiate (1972), the House of York apartments (161 Donald Street) and two buildings at the University of Winnipeg.

The high-rise apartment at 161 Donald Street is 23 storeys high and contained 216 suites designed for a range of downtown housing requirements. Owned by Bestlands Developments Limited, the House of York featured a swimming pool, sauna, party room and landscaped gardens over the side parkade.

Lockhart Hall and Centennial Hall at the University of Winnipeg came next, at a time when both of Winnipeg’s university campuses were growing in response to baby boom demand. With its compressed site and limited options, the University of Winnipeg chose a creative solution to its space needs. MMP proposed expansion to two old buildings by spanning over them and covering existing spaces between buildings to create an integrated mega structure. The partner in change was James Christie, with design team Lewis Morse, Glenn Tinley and George Frederickson. Using only steel panels and glass on the exterior, the interior is a high-tech warehouse of exposed trusses in unpredictable patterns, exposed ductwork and mechanicals, tubular steel and modular furnishings. Architectural writer Jonas Lehrman called it “an exciting concept and a logical solution to a tough planning problem."

Three big buildings followed for John A. Flanders Ltd, long time local developers. The Mercantile Bank at 305 Broadway is a ten-storey office of pre-cast construction in a prominent location for business. The Medical Arts Building at 233 Kennedy is an office tower containing a large number of medical/dental practices, labs, a cafeteria, a bank, a pharmacy and optician retailers. Helmut Peters spoke to the press about the design of the Medical Arts Building with respect to its adaptability to change. The third Flanders project designed by MMP was the Assiniboine Credit Union Office at York and Garry, also in pre-cast concrete with a glass skin, massed in an attractive angularity with its entrance set within a pillared overhang. It is now the office of the Western Lotteries Corporation.

The 13-story Bestlands Building at 191 Pioneer followed in 1974. The Nonsuch Gallery at the Museum of Man and Nature was also designed by MMP during this period. House-built around the recreated 17th century ketch the Nonsuch, the steel-framed structure encloses a mechanical system, which needed design support to maintain the required humidity. It was also designed with one wall which could be knocked out should the ship once again go on tour.

Helmut Peters left MMP in 1983 to form his own development firm, Pine Hill Development Corporation located at 1383 Dugald Road. He subsequently became President and CEO of Consolidated Properties, which owned a series of properties in the prairies on a shareholder basis. Subsequently he relocated to Calgary, retiring in the 1990s.

Projects

  • Medical Arts Building, 233 Kennedy Street, 1971
  • Mercantile Bank, 305 Broadway Avenue, 1972
  • Former House of York‎, 161 Smith Street, 1972
  • Winkler Care Home, Winkler, Manitoba, 1972
  • Former Bestlands Building, 191 Pioneer Avenue, 1974
  • City of Winnipeg Operations Department, District 6, 1539 Waverley Street, 1987

Sources

  • “Predicted drop in architectural work occurs." Winnipeg Tribune. 23 March 1973.