Winnipeg Architecture Foundation



The Forks Historic Port

Address:1 Forks Market Road
Architects:Cohlmeyer Architecture

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A dramatic portal to The Forks both functionally and visually, The Forks Historic Port anchors the transition from the all-important waterway up to The Plaza. Winter programming brings large numbers of people through this portal as the River Trail along the Red and Assiniboine rivers is heavily used by skaters, walkers, and skiers. The Port serves as a docking area for boats and canoes, with a breakwater and lighthouse. Private craft moor during the summer months, as well as commercial boat tours and water taxis. There are canoes for hire dockside. In all seasons, the River Walk trail serves the urban community and brings a steady churn of people on foot or bike, destined for The Forks’ attractions.

The Forks Historic Port recreates docking on this sheltered site of the traditional meeting place where the canoes and York boats of First Nations and fur traders arrived, and in the latter part of the 19th century, smoke-belching paddle wheelers. It was the place of joyful arrivals and of tearful farewells, where supplies were unpacked and furs loaded for distant markets. This is also where western Canada’s first organized group migrations landed.

Visually, it is the south portal, mid-point on the east–west span of The Forks site, surrounded by riparian forest. You move up from the River Walk through four levels of stepped lawns with limestone seating, with one level being a sandy beach that faces the sun. There are popular seasonal patios along the levels to the right and left.

The concept of ‘gathering in’ leads visitors up the broad central staircase. The steps are adapted for people on skates in winter. A long retaining wall sweeps across the divide with The Forks Plaza, containing trees, bollards, and lighting. One of the risers on the steps is inlaid with blue tiles marking the height of the floodwaters in 1997. The Wall Through Time feature forms the east portion of the retaining wall and contains a ramp to the dockside.

Design Characteristics