Born in 1942, Rudolph Paul Friesen commenced a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Manitoba in 1960, graduating five years later. At the Faculty of Architecture Friesen recalls being particularly engaged by the courses and studies led by Gustavo da Roza, who had only recently arrived in Manitoba from California.
Early post-graduation work for Friesen came in 1966 with the prominent Winnipeg firm Smith Carter Searle & Associates, where he had worked during the summers as he completed his degree. Here Friesen recalls an office busy with such projects as the Manitoba Centennial Centre. This position was followed, in 1966, by a stint travelling in Europe and a role at the firm of Ellsässer & Keller in Stuttgart, Germany.
Upon his return to Manitoba, Friesen worked for two years as a Project Architect in the offices of Moody Moore & Partners. He registered with the Manitoba Association of Architects in 1969. This was followed by six years working with the firm Libling Michener & Associates, where he became a Principal and was deeply involved in the enormous redevelopment project known as Lakeview Square.
In 1975 Friesen started his own firm, in his basement. Early success came with a number of school projects in south-western Manitoba. Later work during this period came with a number of church projects built across Canada. Over time the firm grew and, with the addition of partner Brian Tokar, and later other new partners, the group adopted the name Friesen Tokar Reynolds Rhoda Neufeld Architectural Partnership in 1986. This practice now operates under the name ft3, with offices in Winnipeg and Calgary. With the firm Friesen has designed churches, schools, health care facilities, seniors’ housing and museum projects. Amongst these are Morrow Gospel Church (755 St. Anne’s Road, 1976), Maples Personal Care Home (500 Mandalay Drive, 1981) and Westgate Mennonite Collegiate addition (86 West Gate, 1977).
Other notable works by ft3 firm include the City of Winnipeg Works and Operations Building (1155 Pacific Avenue, 2006); the six-storey condominium block The Strand (300 Waterfront Drive, Winnipeg, 2007); and the Osborne Rapid Transit Station, 2012. Friesen, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Russia in 1926, is also profoundly interested in architectural history, particularly that of the Mennonite community in Russia. The architect has written more than 90 articles on this subject for Der Bote, a German-language Mennonite newspaper from Winnipeg. (Der Bote ceased publication in 2008.)
Friesen, with Sergey Shmakin, was also the author of the 1996 book Into The Past: Buildings of the Mennonite Commonwealth. Friesen serves on the Board of the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, Manitoba. In 1986 he served as President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and is a past president of the Manitoba Association of Architects. Friesen is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.