Brutalist Architecture in Winnipeg

by Jeffrey Thorsteinson
Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp (by Jordan Pauls)

What is Brutalist Architecture?

Like many stylistic terms in architecture, the exact parameters denoted by the word “Brutalism” are difficult to precisely pin down. As it is commonly understood today, Brutalism is a style which became particularly prominent during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This approach shifted the vocabulary of Modern architecture away from the International Style’s lightness and predominant use of glass and steel. In place of these tendencies, Brutalism embraced the plastic qualities of masonry and generally adopted heavy, rough or unfinished aesthetics. Particularly common to Brutalism is the conspicuous use of bare concrete, especially that which bears the impression of the wooden forms used in construction. Brutalism also incorporates concrete which displays linear patterning—sometimes called “corduroy concrete”—and that which reveals the stony aggregate ingredients of the concrete mix. Other Brutalist characteristics include heavy mullions and deeply inset fenestration; large expanses of masonry wall; complex floor plans; the use of circles and diagonals, as well as straight and boxy shapes; multilevel open areas incorporating a variety of interlinking spaces and unusual silhouettes, including that known as the “inverted ziggurat.”

The Barbican Centre (by James Ashby), 2012

Brutalist Design in Europe and the United Kingdom

Brutalist architecture has its strongest roots in certain practices of the late 1940s and 1950s. It has been typical to trace the name, look and goals of Brutalism to the influence of the post-war practice of the Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, more commonly known as Le Corbusier. Scholars routinely cite this architect’s 1947–1954 L’Unite d’Habitation in Marseille and his 1954 Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp as influential to the beginnings of Brutalism. In these works we find the extensive use of bare concrete, often with the imprint of wooden formwork left visible, a technique pioneered by Le Corbusier. In French such bare concrete was referred to as bêton brut (concrete in the raw) and it is this phrase that is regularly credited as the root of the name “Brutalism.”

This, however, is not the only source of Brutalism. We can also look to developments in 1950s Britain. Here, architects such as Peter and Alison Smithson and theorists such as Reyner Banham and Theo Crosby introduced a new approach they called “The New Brutalism.” Banham’s definition of the New Brutalism included three characteristics: 1. memorability as an image; 2. clear exhibition of structure; and 3. valuation of materials as found. This style favoured simplicity and saw value in unpretentiousness, particularly that of the British working classes. The New Brutalism was also a call to return to the roots of modern architecture. This was a younger generation’s rejection of the older generation of British Modernists’ perceived shift toward decorative and picturesque approaches. For this reason, British New Brutalism tended to resemble the steel and glass pre-war work of Le Corbusier, as well as that of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Over time, this style evolved toward what we now call Brutalism.

Brutalist Architecture in Canada

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Brutalism had fully emerged and could be found internationally. Prototypical examples of the style include the Smithson’s 1972 Robin Hood Gardens in East London, Paul Rudolph’s 1963 Yale Art and Architecture Building in New Haven, Connecticut and the 1969 City Hall in Boston by Kallman McKinnell & Knowles. In Canada we can look to Montreal’s 1967 Place Bonaventure, Charlottetown’s 1964 Confederation Centre of the Arts, Ottawa’s 1969 National Art Centre (all of which were designed by the firm of Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold and Sise, better known as ARCOP) as well as the buildings included in this booklet.

As these examples demonstrate, Brutalism in Canada was often associated with large-scale, institutional projects related to the arts and academia. Indeed, perhaps more than anything else, Brutalist architecture was a reflection of its era and its changing economics, tastes and mores. Certain aspects of Brutalism—including an adoption of raw finishes and complex floor-plans and elevations—reflect not only a rejection of the International Style but also attitudes related to the various social movements then occurring. At the same time, the common use of a more polished version of Brutalism in the construction of corporate architecture and skyscrapers speaks to the fact that Brutalism also reflects economic and technological patterns, possibly in contrast with such social goals. This variety presents the fluidity of Brutalism, a style which so often appears resolutely solid. Brutalism was a polymorphous entity, within whose wide variety we can see evidence of an interest in ancient and historic architecture, the early twentieth century work of Modern architects like Willem Dudok, Bruno Taut and Frank Lloyd Wright, and social and contextual concerns. This fluidity might also include a degree of regionalism, in which Brutalism adopted local characteristics. In the instance of Winnipeg, we can ask: was there a local variety of Brutalism and, if so, how and why did this style appear?

The Tour

Brutalist style buildings are some of the least liked and least understood of all architectural styles. Often they were built for functions, such as jails, that stimulate negative feelings about the buildings. This tour includes a variety of Brutalist style of architecture, for you to visit, consider and form your own opinion.

There is no set route for the tour as the buildings are located throughout Winnipeg, accessible by bicycle, transit and automobile. This will provide the opportunity to explore some new neighbourhoods.

1

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

174 Market Avenue (at Rorie Street)

1969–70
Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna (now Number Ten Architectural Group)
Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (by Parks Canada), 2007

Completed in 1970 for a cost of $2.5 million, this 785-seat auditorium was named a National Historic Site in 2009. An important part of this designation was the building’s distinctive Brutalist design, which includes the extensive use of exposed concrete bearing the imprint of the wooden forms used during construction. This roughness reflects the structure’s presence in a turn-of-the-century warehouse environment. Such unpretentious material treatment was furthermore in keeping with the intent of the theatre as a whole.

As architect Allan Waisman, stated: “Around the lobby, a series of spaces were provided to allow for an audience to mingle casually. … Nowhere were there to be grand staircases, marble or chintz. The feeling all along was to make people feel as comfortable in jeans as they might in a tuxedo.” This approach recalls the inclination to modesty and honesty loved by British New Brutalism. These qualities also reflect the programmatic desires of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, whose Artistic Director, Eddie Gilbert, was closely involved in the project’s planning.

2

Public Safety Building

151 Princess Street (at William Avenue)

1966
Libling Michener and Associates (architects), Les Stechesen (lead designer)
2020
Demolished
Public Safety Building (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Like the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Public Safety Building—built as a headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service—is a part of the late 1960s – early 1970s new Winnipeg civic and arts district. This fact connects the building to the general Canadian tendency for Brutalist architecture to be associated with large government projects and complexes. Elements of this structure which resonate with Brutalism include the use of substantial mullions, the forceful articulation of structure and the employment of heavy masonry, in this case Manitoba Tyndall stone. The design of the Public Safety Building echoes the surrounding warehouse district, in its scale and use of solid masonry construction. The Brutalist monumentality of the building, with its insular, fortress-like appearance, is directly related to the function of the building as a jail and police headquarters.

Officers of the police force worked closely with the architects in the planning of the complex. Their efforts resulted in “the construction of a building second to none on the continent; it being well-located, well-designed and functionally planned to meet police requirements”. The building contains court rooms, a detention area for about 170, communication and crime detection facilities, garage and offices.

3

Canadian Grain Commission Building

303 Main Street (at Pioneer Avenue)

1973
Smith Carter Parkin
Canadian Grain Commission Building (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This structure was built to house the federal department responsible for the regulation of the grain inspection industry as well as the Canadian International Grains Institute. The building stands as a notable example of a Canadian skyscraper displaying Brutalist elements. Among its Brutalist attributes are its use of pre-cast concrete (mixed with Manitoba limestone aggregate) and its top-heavy silhouette. This feature is the root of its sometime nickname “the mushroom building” and recalls Milan’s 1958 Torre Velasca by BBPR Architects. It also gives the building a faint echo of a sheaf of wheat. An unusual feature is the “extended cap,” with space between the upper and lower floors for specialised mechanical equipment used to transport grain to an upper level flour mill and test brewery.

Architect Ernie Smith admitted that “Mixing two different functions in a vertical building is difficult. Normally construction would be separated horizontally. In this case, we worked out two separate modules for offices and lab space, [and] found we needed greater depth in the lab and rationalised the present form.” Notably, the sculpture in the plaza, Number One Northern by John Nugent, was considered very controversial when installed in 1976 and was removed in 1978. It was later reinstalled, in 1997.

4

Radisson Hotel (Northstar Hotel)

288 Portage Avenue (at Smith Street)

1971
Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna (now Number Ten Architectural Group)
Radisson Hotel (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This soaring structure, which was originally built for the CP Hotel chain, is another example of the adoption of Brutalist aesthetics for commercial high-rise construction. Notable features in this regard include the ample use of striped and raw “corduroy concrete” walls and the exploitation of the plastic qualities of concrete in the fabrication of the unconventional projecting window bay.

The building is 27 storeys high, nine of which are for parking. The design was very unusual as the public areas and hotel rooms are in the upper portion of the building. The original hotel also included two cinemas, a pool and workout room, restaurant and café and a walkway connection to the now demolished Eaton’s department store.

5

Lion's Manor

320 Sherbrook Street (at Portage Avenue)

1970
Number Ten Architectural Group
Lion's Manor front detail (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This brick and concrete housing project is closer to British New Brutalism than later “high” Brutalism, both in its prominent use of brick and in its social intent. When constructed, it was the largest seniors’ residence in Canada. A primary concern for the seniors (most of whom had never lived in high-rises) was the fear of fire. The choice of concrete and brick was a conscious attempt to assuage these fears. Worthy of particular note is the bare concrete sculpture alongside the Portage Avenue facade.

6

“Metro Plaza”

101 Pembina Highway (at Corydon Avenue)

1966
Étienne Gaboury
"Metro Plaza" (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Locally referred to as the “bear pit,” this plaza was largely demolished in 1987 with the construction of the new River Osborne Community Centre, designed by Number Ten Architectural Group. Metro Plaza was sunken below street level to provide an urban “breathing space” removed from the noise of nearby traffic. Featuring sweeping areas of concrete geometric forms, small landscaped areas and a fountain, this space demonstrated the sometime Brutalist tendency to recollect ancient architectural aesthetics, in this case presenting a faint echo of the ruins of Mexico’s Tenochtitlan. It was never well-received by the neighbouring community and eventually became a place of petty crime and little public use. Still visible are the concrete perimeter walls and the large sculptural element—since modified into signage—which features a raw, vertically patterned concrete and other inscribed decoration.

"Metro Plaza" period photo (by Étienne Gaboury)

Metro Plaza received a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada award in 1966 and a Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment in 1971.

7

Winnipeg Transit Garage (Fort Rouge Transit Base)

421 Osborne Street (at Glasgow Avenue)

1969
Waisman Ross and Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna (Morley Blankstein lead designer), now known as Number Ten Architectural Group
Winnipeg Transit Garage (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This complex of two large buildings houses the repair and maintenance facilities for the Winnipeg Transit bus fleet. The 240,000 square feet garage, adjacent to Osborne Street, accommodates more than 500 buses and includes special drive-in bays for washing and fueling, and areas to check oil, water, tires and lights of each bus after the day’s run.The 185,000 square feet assembly-line overhaul and storage building, and two-storey administration office, are located at the rear of the site. The overhaul area includes specialised areas for body work, painting, engine overhaul and upholstery repairs. The office area features an open two-storey-high central atrium and includes space for dispatchers, timekeepers and driving instruction classrooms. A bronze plaque at the office entrance commemorates the growth and history of Winnipeg’s transit system.

Both buildings are organized with open rectanglar interiors to ease bus manouvering and have support spaces located in projecting semi-circular structures. These support spaces include mechanical equipment, stairs, storage and washrooms. This arrangement of ‘served’ and ‘servant’ spaces being expressed in a building’s exterior design appears frequently in architecture of this time period.

Brutalist characteristics of this complex are its cast-in-place and precast concrete exterior walls, many featuring a vertical rib pattern. The long walls facing Osborne Street and the adjacent residential neighbourhood on Brandon Avenue have sloped grassed berms to reduce the visual bulk of the buildings.

Winnipeg Transit Garage (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

The 185,000 square feet assembly-line overhaul and storage building, and two-storey administration office, are located at the rear of the site. The overhaul area includes specialised areas for body work, painting, engine overhaul and upholstery repairs. The office area features an open two-storey-high central atrium and includes space for dispatchers, timekeepers and driving instruction classrooms. A bronze plaque at the office entrance commemorates the growth and history of Winnipeg’s transit system.

Both buildings are organized with open rectanglar interiors to ease bus manouvering and have support spaces located in projecting semi-circular structures. These support spaces include mechanical equipment, stairs, storage and washrooms. This arrangement of ‘served’ and ‘servant’ spaces being expressed in a building’s exterior design appears frequently in architecture of this time period.

Brutalist characteristics of this complex are its cast-in-place and precast concrete exterior walls, many featuring a vertical rib pattern. The long walls facing Osborne Street and the adjacent residential neighbourhood on Brandon Avenue have sloped grassed berms to reduce the visual bulk of the buildings.

8

Robson Hall

224 Dysart Road

1969
Ward MacDonald and Partners
Robson Hall (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This distinctive building, constructed as a home to the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law, is another noteworthy example of the use of Brutalism within an educational context. In 1970 the Faculty of Law finally vacated the Law Courts building on Broadway and joined the Fort Garry Campus, occupying its new quarters in Robson Hall.

Robson Hall entrance detail (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Like the University of Manitoba Student Union Building and the Manitoba Teachers’ Society Headquarters Building, a distinctive Brutalist aspect of Robson Hall is its uncommon, top-heavy silhouette. This form, in which the third floor looms outward above the floors below it, approaches the shape known as the “inverted ziggurat” and lends the building a certain sense of gravity, both literal and figurative. The exterior of Robson Hall is faced partially with rough-hewn random-patterned limestone, as seen on many of the campus buildings, but also with precast concrete panels of a unique aggregate texture.

9

Duff Roblin Building

190 Dysart Road

1970
Green Blankstein Russell and Associates
Duff Roblin Building (by Winnipeg Architecture Foundation)

As an academic building built in 1970, the Duff Roblin Building fits the profile of Brutalism as a form of expression linked to civic and institutional projects from this era. Like the Public Safety Building, this structure is notable in demonstrating a Brutalist approach which largely forgoes an exterior reliance on concrete in favour of the use of Manitoba Tyndall limestone. Here this material serves to link this structure to the campus as a whole, in which the use of Tyndall is a conspicuous theme. Interestingly, this stone is here treated in such a way as to closely resemble that common Brutalist material, corduroy concrete—incised with deep-set vertical bands and presenting a roughly-hewn surface. Other Brutalist elements include the thin clerestory windows and a clear exhibition of structure.

Duff Roblin Building (by Winnipeg Architecture Foundation)
Duff Roblin Building (by Winnipeg Architecture Foundation)

10

University of Manitoba Student Union Building (University Centre)

65 Chancellor's Circle

1966–69
Number Ten Architectural Group
University Centre (by Henry Kalen)

University Centre is a five-storey poured and pre-cast concrete structure constructed as part of a campus planning strategy that aimed to develop the campus as an urban centre. New construction on the campus was to be multi-purpose and flexible in design.

The overall design of the building had to maintain an unobstructed view down Chancellor Matheson Road to the portico of the Administration Building. This requirement to remain unobtrusive to the surrounding structures drove the project below grade. The above grade facilities include dining space, offices and conference rooms, while the lounges, cafeteria, bookstore and open spaces for gathering were located below grade. This below-grade construction was the catalyst for a campus-wide network of climate-controlled tunnels. University Centre serves as the central meeting point for all of the campus tunnels, culminating in a two-storey multifunctional space referred to as a “campo”. This space was conceived of as a main street that could act as a market, plaza or venue for speech and debate.

This building fits with the Canadian pattern of Brutalist architecture being associated with the widespread construction of government, arts and academic centres in the 1960s and 1970s. The “inverted ziggurat” shape of University Centre recalls such other Brutalist structures as the 1969 City Hall in Boston and 222 Jarvis Street and York University’s Scott Library, both in Toronto. Like the Public Safety Building and the Manitoba Teachers’ Society Headquarters Building, the University of Manitoba Student Union Building demonstrates heavy concrete mullions and, like the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, its lower storey makes use of a complex floor-plan featuring multilevel open areas and a variety of interlinking spaces. The exterior is of refined and bright composite masonry while on the interior we find the extensive use of bare concrete and waffle ceiling.

11

Pan Am Pool

25 Poseidon Bay (at Carter Avenue)

1966
Smith Carter Parkin
Pan Am Pool entrance (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Built for the 1967 Pan-American Games, this large recreation centre presents four enormous and heavy-looking bare concrete walls suspended above a vertically-patterned concrete main level. The interior of the original building also made extensive use of bêton brut in a typically Brutalist manner. Other Brutalist characteristics include the heavy mullions of the narrow clerestory windows and its status as a large government-supported complex motivated by social ambitions policy to pride recreational opportunities to a wide population.

Pan Am Pool side (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

12

Headquarters Building, Manitoba Teacher's Society

191 Harcourt Street (at Portage Avenue)

1966
Libling Michener and Associates
Manitoba Teachers' Society Headquarters Building (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society was originally located in a modernist building (designed by Libling Michener) located at the corner of Portage Avenue and Lipton Street. Increased demand for space resulted in the decision to construct a new, larger facility. Property was chosen at the corner of Portage Avenue and Harcourt Street and Libling Michener and Associates were again chosen as the architects.

Manitoba Teachers' Society Headquarters Building front entrance detail (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

The official opening of the building known as McMaster House was on September 23rd, 1967. At the opening, Dr. Johnson, Minister of Education stated, “What a striking building it is! From the outside it has the lines of a fortress. And a fortress it should be—to guard the Society’s high level of professional competence”. In 1968, the design was awarded the Manitoba Association of Architects’ Award of Excellence.

Manitoba Teachers' Society Headquarters Building side entrance detail (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Brutalist characteristics of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society building include its ample use of bare concrete, here treated to reveal its aggregate components. This concrete can be found in the ground floor patterned cladding of the 350-seat auditorium, the waffle ceiling and in the sturdy mullions of the upper floors. These mullions also recall the widespread Modernist use of Le Corbusier’s vertical brise soleil. Another notable Brutalist element is the “inverted ziggurat” treatment of plan and elevation in which each floor projects out over the one below. This lends the building a sort of heavy monumentality, even as the structure maintains some of the clarity and lightness associated with earlier Modern architecture.

13

Habing LaViolette Law Offices

2643 Portage Avenue (at Harcourt Street)

1971
Dwight R. Johnston
Habing LaViolette Law Offices (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This building represents a relatively rare use in Winnipeg of the Brutalist style for a small-scale commercial building. Worthy of attention in this regard are the deeply inset windows and the vertically-inscribed bare concrete walls, which call to mind the “corduroy concrete” of such Brutalist buildings as Paul Rudolph’s 1963 Yale Art and Architecture Building.

14

St. John Cantius Church

846 Burrows Avenue (at Sinclair Street)

1971
Libling, Michener and Associates
St. John Cantius Church (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This 500-seat church, parish hall, rectory and convent was built for the Polish National Catholic Parish of St. John Cantius. Opened in 1971, the design was strongly influenced by the Second Vatican Council. There is a strong diagonal organisation to the church’s plan and form. Two entrances at opposite corners lead to a nave with a central altar. Pews are in semicircular rows around the altar, minimising the number of rows and their distance from the liturgy. All are arrayed on a diagonal axis. This axis is expressed by the tilted roof form both inside and out, which provides a visual focus towards the altar.

St. John Cantius Church bell tower detail (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

St. John Cantius displays a number of Brutalist features. Amongst these are deeply inset windows and doors, the pervasive use of unfinished vertically-inscribed concrete and the heavy tactility of the overall ensemble, which engenders a sense of gravitas and longevity, fitting for this religious structure.

St. John Cantius Church rear entrance detail (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

An earlier church, dating to 1918 is also located on the site. It was decided to build a new complex rather than rehabilitate the earlier church.

15

Bank of Montreal

585 Mountain Avenue (at McGregor Street)

1971
Gustavo Da Roza
Bank of Montreal, now Mountain Medical (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Gustavo Da Roza designed this building for the Bank of Montreal, in collaboration with the bank’s chief architect R. Mackenzie Yeats. Completed in 1971, this building, like the Habing LaViolette Law Office on the tour, demonstrates Brutalism on a small scale.

An article in the June 1971 issue of Canadian Architect stated: “The exterior vertical-striated concrete walls and strong rectilinear mass of the building were intended to convey the feeling of a solid, permanent and immovable edifice considered the essence of a bank building, and the use of the Bank of Montreal blue on the exterior and an illuminated logo readily identified the building.”

Bank of Montreal detail (by Jeffrey Thorsteinson)

Brutalist elements within this former bank structure include the striped concrete walls, the unorthodox multilevel open areas at both the front and rear entrances and the juxtaposition of a blocky silhouette with a handful of diagonal details. The interior bank was originally decorated with a mural by Saskatchewan Modernist artist Ken Lochhead.

16

Blessed Sacrament Church

710 Roanoke Street (at Kern Drive)

1966
Étienne Gaboury
Blessed Sacrament Church (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

This church’s bare concrete walls, inventive fenestration and expressive shape all recall Le Corbusier’s 1954 Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, a building which Gaboury has cited as personally influential and which has been seen as significant to the beginnings of Brutalist architecture. The pairing of such elements together within Blessed Sacrament Church render this building a sort of intermediate example between classic Brutalism and other categories within which Gaboury’s work has been placed including Expressionism and Prairie Regionalism.

Blessed Sacrament Church entrance (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

17

Winnipeg Taxation Centre

66 Stapon Road (at Reenders Drive)

1979
Number Ten Architectural Group
Winnipeg Taxation Centre (by Number Ten Architectural Group)

Brutalist elements of this large government complex include the comprehensive use of exposed concrete exterior walls, which lends the structure an appropriate sense of weight. We can also note the repeated use of a simple circular motif in decorative details and windows. This gesture grants the aforementioned cement a level of plasticity which connects it to the general Brutalist embrace of this material and its expressive possibilities. Such an approach is also evident in the use of similar masonry in such landscape architectural elements as a large decorative pool. This move integrates the building and its setting, the latter transformed into part of the Taxation Centre’s all-encompassing material scheme.

18

St. Boniface Police Station, County Court & Health Unit

227 Provencher Boulevard (at Langevin Street)

1964
Étienne Gaboury
St. Boniface Police Station, County Court & Health Unit (by Burdocks Design Studio), 2012

Étienne Gaboury designed this civic complex for the City of St. Boniface in 1964. It was the first major project for the young architect. In 1961 St. Boniface council put together a $600,000 package to build a new city hall that included a police station, health office and magistrate’s court. It was put to a referendum in October but rejected at the polls.

Council went back to the drawing board and opted to build a series of individual buildings on the land where the city hall was meant to go. By breaking the project into smaller blocks they could afford the construction costs out of existing tax revenues and reserve funds.

Located adjacent to the former St. Boniface Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), this ensemble of three buildings, set around a park-like plaza, fits the pattern of Brutalist expression being linked to institutional complexes. Other typically Brutalist details include the use of masonry construction—here concrete with pre-cast stone veneer—and the inscription of vertical patterning upon the walls. Throughout the complex we also find the paradigmatically Brutalist use of deeply inset and sheltered doors and windows. Examples of these include the strips of clerestory windows on the Court House and Police Station and those upon the Health Unit’s Provencher elevation. In both of these cases we find the presence of heavy masonry mullions similar to the brise soleil of Libling Michener’s Manitoba Teachers’ Society Headquarters Building. This latter element—along with the irregular placement and size of windows on the Court House façade—betrays the architect’s debt to the model of Le Corbusier, in particular the Brutalist ancestor that is the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp. Gaboury visited this building in 1958 while studying in Paris and has professed the deep effect the structure had upon him. This precedent guided Gaboury’s development of what he thought of as a regional style of architecture, one which took as its focus the Prairie sun. Such an interest indicates the overlap between local concerns, foreign models and the international mode of Brutalism. This heliocentric standpoint is manifested in the skylights found throughout this St. Boniface complex, in particular in the Health Unit and in the Court House’s skylit illumination of a centrally placed Bible.

In 1964 this set of buildings was nominated for a Massey Medal for Architecture and was the winner of a Manitoba Association of Architects Award.

Glossary

bêton brut

“concrete in the raw” translated from the French. Concrete left in its natural state when the formwork has been removed.

brise soleil

a screen, usually louvered, placed on the outside of a building to shield windows from direct sunlight.

clerestory

any row of windows that is above eye level and allows light into a room.

mullion

a vertical bar between the panes of glass in a window.

References

Alexander Clement. Brutalism, Post-war British Architecture Wiltshire: The Crowood Press, 2011
Serena Keshavjee, editor and Herbert Enns, Design. Winnipeg Modern Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2006
Réjean Legault, “The Idea of Brutalism in Canadian Architecture” in Architecture in the Canadian Fabric by Rhodri W. Liscombe, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.
Catherine Macdonald. A City at Leisure An Illustrated History of Parks and Recreation Services in Winnipeg. 1893–1993 Winnipeg: City of Winnipeg Parks and Recreation Department. 1993
Winnipeg Free Press Archives
Winnipeg Tribune Archives