Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Places

Buildings

Winnipeg International Airport (James Armstrong Richardson Airport) demolished

Constructed:1961-1964
Other Work:Renovations between 1986 and 1994 completed by IKOY
Architects:Bernard Brown and David Thordarson
Firms:Green, Blankstein and Russell
Status:Demolished

More Information

The Winnipeg International Airport (now known as the James Armstrong Richardson Airport) was designed by Green, Blankstein and Russell, Winnipeg's most prominent post-war architectural firm. Opened in 1964, the terminal was originally part of a national network of sophisticated, art-filled air terminals built between 1958 and 1964 (including Edmonton, Toronto and Gander). Winnipeg's airport was widely recognized as one of the finest examples of mid-century modern architecture in the country.

The Airport was an International Style building -- it was a minimalist, rectilinear, steel-and-glass structure with sophisticated detailing. The modern terminal incorporated the latest in Canadian and internationally designed furniture and contemporary art, including the largest public art projects ever realized in Canada at the time. (Rasky, 12) Of particular significance were Eli Bornstein's Structuralist Relief in Fifteen Parts (1962) and John Graham's Northern Lights (1964), installed on the north and south walls of the concourse. Bornstein's architectural mural was a rhythmic pattern of vividly coloured enameled metal cubes; Graham's installation, which was designed in consultation with Bornstein, and akin in both scale and colour, was an assembly of coloured plexiglass and mosaic tiles. The installed sculptural works instilled a gallery-like quality in the open, public spaces of the main hall and mezzanine and symbolized a national aspiration to make airports into cultural institutions. (Flaman, 183)

Between 1986 and 1994, a renovation and expansion of the building was undertaken by then Winnipeg-based architectural firm IKOY. The approach was sensitive to the original 1964 design and did not alter the building's general character.

Although there was local, provincial and national support for maintaining and re-purposing the airport, it was closed in 2011 and later demolished.

Recognition and Awards

  • Was included in the Heritage Canada Foundation's 2008 Top Ten Endangered Places List

Significant Dates

  • Official Opening: 18 January 1964
  • Closed: October 2011

Design Characteristics

  • Six artworks were commissioned for the terminal: Eli Bornstein's Structurist Relief in Fifteen Parts (1962); John Graham's Northern Lights (1964); Anne Kahane's sculpture, Frederick Stevenson Walking Across the Field to his Plane (1962); Walter Yarwood's sculpture, Untitled (c. 1963), Gerald Gladstone's sculpture, Solar Cone (c.1963); Alfred Pellan's mural, The Prairie (c.1963).
  • The building was finished in Tyndall limestone cladding.
  • Furnishings by designers: Robin Bush; Walter Nugent; William Katavolos, Ross Littell, and Douglas Kelley; Harry Bertoia; and Charles and Ray Eames.
  • Check-in counters, waiting areas and shops were inside the concourse building, an open rectangular pavilion, constructed with a clear-span steel structure. This building was glazed on the east and west walls, with solid walls on the north and south, or short, ends.
  • Design process stretched from early 1957 to late 1959.
  • Symmetrical in design.
  • The airport was a collection of three buildings, the administration building and control tower, the concourse building and an arrival/departure lounge.
  •  
  •  

Sources

  • Flaman, Bernard. "The Winnipeg Airport." In Winnipeg Modern, edited by Serena Keshavjee, 183-201. University of Manitoba Press, 2006.
  • Lowe, Frank. "Art in the New Airports Gives Canada a Sophisticated Edge." Canadian Art 21 (1964): 147.
  • Gilmor, Alison. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." The Winnipeg Free Press, 29 November, 2011.
  • McWilliam, Yvonne. "From Railway Prints to Riopelle." news on the dot, September-October, 1963.
  • Rasky, Frank. "Canada's New Temples of Travel." Canadian Weekly, May 1964.
  • Werier, Val. "Most Exciting Building in Town." Winnipeg Tribune, 21 November 1964.

Locations of Supporting Information

  • University of Manitoba, Archives and Special Collections, Henry Kalen Collection
  • Interview with Bernard Brown, Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, Oral History Project
  • Province of Manitoba, Legislative Library
  • City of Winnipeg
  • Archives of Manitoba