IKOY was founded in Winnipeg in 1968, drawing its moniker from the names of its principle designers: Roy Isaac (I), Ron Keenberg (K), Stan Osaka (O) and Jim Yamashita (Y).
Early projects included the 1971 design of an apartment block at 444 Kennedy Street in Winnipeg and a contract for the interior design of the University of Manitoba Student Union Building (Number Ten Architectural Group, 65 Chancellor’s Circle, 1966-69). Following these commissions the firm cut its teeth on public housing projects in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Alberta, including the 1973 Westboine Village Housing Co-operative (32 Shelmerdine Drive), and St. Andrew’s Place (425 Ellen Street, Winnipeg, 1974).
It was during the 1970s, as well, that IKOY pioneered two facets which would set the firm apart from the architectural mainstream. The first was the construction of projects with IKOY itself serving as developer; a key example of such efforts is Bromley Square (123-10th Avenue South West, Calgary, 1977), a rapidly erected 31-storey complex featuring 396 apartments, office space, a recreation centre and enclosed parking. The second was the initiation of the colourful, high-tech aesthetic for which the firm would become known. This look was first pioneered in the (unbuilt) plans for a parkade adjacent to the Winnipeg Convention Centre and, in 1977, was manifested concretely with the construction of Assiniboine Community College in Brandon (1430 Victoria Avenue East). Here – and in future buildings designed by the firm – the architecture was partly the result of what IKOY termed a “five component system”; the components described were mechanical, electrical, skin, design strategy and implementation or fitments. These are linked by what Keenberg identifies as a sixth component – action strategies. Jim Yamashita cited as inspiration for much of this technique a design seminar held by Jim Powers in Nashville, Tennessee on project and drafting systems. Shortly after the Brandon College project this approach was epitomized in the design of the firm’s offices (396 Assiniboine Avenue, 1978).
The firm sought to reveal and highlight the construction systems -- calling attention to these uncovered elements -- with paint. These colours were typically canary yellow, red, green and maroon, though a bright aqua also makes an appearance within IKOY projects. Other IKOY projects which make plain this unmistakable aesthetic, which has been termed “tool-kit architecture,” are the Red River Community College Auto Diesel Shop (2055 Notre Dame Avenue, 1983) and the University of Manitoba’s Wallace Building (125 Dysart Road, 1986), the first of which won the firm a Governor General’s prize.
Similar inimitable landmarks of the firm’s open assembly idiom include the somewhat controversial red Provincial Courthouse in Flin Flon, Manitoba (1985). This building, according to Keenberg, led the birth of IKOY’s “Enhanced Amplification” design strategy, wherein construction elements are made to appear to be doing more than they, in fact, are. Comparable projects by the firm from this period are the Winnipeg RCMP Forensic Lab (621 Academy Road), Deer Lodge Hospital (2109 Portage Avenue) and the William G. Davis Computer Research Centre at the University of Waterloo, all of 1987. The last of these was a competition-winning scheme hailed by critic Adele Freeman as “one of the most exciting buildings to appear on the parched Canadian landscape in years.”
Later projects from the now established firm include, the gleaming silver Agriculture Canada Research Centre in Brandon, Manitoba (1995) – with inspiration from the worlds of farming and science; the Base Maintenance Facility and First Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Shilo, Manitoba (1996-8), which won a Prairie 2000 Architecture Award of Excellence; the Militia Training Centre, CFB Valcartier, Quebec, 1997; the ADF Steel Plant, Terrebonne, Quebec, 1997; and the Advanced Technology & Academic Centre, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, 2003. Perhaps the most notable work of this later era is the National Archives in Gatineau, Quebec, of 1997, which won IKOY a Governor General’s Medal. This large structure – described by IKOY as a “Village of Preservation and Conservation” – was conceived to somewhat recall, in a far more modern and technologically up-to-date manner, the ancient Athenian Parthenon.
At the height of their practice, IKOY operated out of three offices, in Winnipeg, Regina and Thunder Bay. By the 2000s those three branches had closed, with the main base for the firm’s operations located in Ottawa. In 2003 IKOY was one of two offices to win the first Royal Institute of Canadian Architects’ Firm Award.