Winnipeg Architecture Foundation



Manitoba Start

Formerly:The Avenue and Hample Buildings
Address:265 Portage Avenue
Architects:5468796 Architecture
Tours:Part of the QR Code Tour

More Information

Manitoba Start is a non-profit organisation that provides services to Winnipeg’s new immigrants, including orientation classes, career counselling and employment workshops. Its new, 22,500-square-foot facility, built for $1.7 million, is located on the main floor of The Avenue on Portage, a landmark heritage building in the city’s downtown, renovated and redesigned by 5468796 Architecture.

Manitoba Start’s program is always evolving to meet the changing needs of its staff and clients, necessitating a design that integrates both fixed and flexible spaces. Due to a somewhat irregular grid of existing columns, the plan responds with a hexagonal geometry that flows freely through the building.

Rooms oriented at 30° and 60° angles establish solid and void spaces throughout the facility, allowing for easier movement of people and greater connectivity between the project’s diverse programmatic elements. Fixed programs are contained in solid boxes – with walls of birch plywood or white-painted MDF – while flexible spaces fill the remaining voids. Defined by simple glass partitions, the open plan areas support a range of informal activities, from relaxing between classes to breakout meetings. Hexagonal perforations in the plywood panels provide a greater sense of openness while still maintaining visual separation, acting as a filter between the more energised public environment and the quieter classroom zones.

The hexagonal geometry is employed in a variety of forms and at multiple scales, from the configuration of fluorescent tube lighting and the open office furniture layout, to the detailing of way-finding signage and interior finishes. Functioning as both an organising principle and a graphic element, the repeated pattern establishes a coherent spatial arrangement and cohesive branding for the organisation.

Several elements take advantage of the building’s high profile location and signal the project’s openness to the public. From the street, a faceted glass wall offers a view of Manitoba Start’s activities to passers-by, and the main entrance angles in from the building edge, expanding the public area of sidewalk. Beside the reception desk, an open staircase with wide, broad steps links the ground floor to the mezzanine and functions as a casual waiting area, encouraging interactions between newcomers.

Manitoba Start’s dynamic interior introduces a fresh, new layer to the historic building, and proudly highlights the important role that immigrants continue to play in developing Manitoba’s culture and heritage.

Design Characteristics

  • Solid and void spaces throughout the facility
  • Walls of birch plywood or white-painted MDF
  • Open plan areas defined by simple glass partitions
  • Hexagonal perforations in the plywood panels
  • Hexagonal geometry employed in a variety of forms and at multiple scales
  • Faceted glass wall