Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

People

Contractors

Bird Construction

Biography

Bird Construction – a multinational firm with more than a half-billion dollars in sales and one of Canada's top 10 national general contractors – began in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1920. Founded by Hubert J. Bird, the enterprise started small. Within its first decade, the company met with difficulty as an economic depression substantially reduced the rate of construction. In the 1930s and 1940s, 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 that came with the Second World War – and the continued, broader upsurge that would characterize the post-war years. In that period, the firm opened offices in Vancouver and Toronto. In 1998 the company opened its first American branch in Seattle, Washington.

Among the early building projects the firm undertook in Manitoba were 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 (arrangement of windows); 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 was the post-war construction of Wildwood Park. A subdivision of Fort Garry, Wildwood Park is a uniquely conceived neighbourhood in which 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.

Bird Construction was also responsible for such important Winnipeg structures as Winnipeg Arena (1430 Maroons Road, 1955, demolished) and the Winnipeg Art Gallery (300 Memorial Boulevard, 1970). More recently, the company executed the renovation of the Metropolitan Theatre (281 Donald Street, 2012; with Number 10 Architectural Group) 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.