The setting is an "open house" presentation in an elementary school gymnasium. Nervous architects stand in front of coloured charts and maps, their drawings intentionally vague enough to conceal how far along the design really is. An agitated city councillor tries to control an angry room as local residents in uncomfortable folding chairs cheer and jeer every sentence of a long-winded presentation. When given the chance to speak, each laments the loss of green space or a familiar view, invariably foretelling horror stories of increased traffic on their quiet streets.
It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase "as pretty as an airport" appear -- Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, might have felt differently about airports had he seen the new Richardson International Airport terminal that on Sunday welcomed its first visitors.
The new airport stands as an impressive welcome mat for our city, a symbol of modernity and progress. Its dramatic curving glass walls anchor the building to the prairie horizon and celebrate in a single sweeping view the light and landscape that define our province. It has space, colour and light in proportions that stimulate the visitor and inspire a feeling of pride.
At 4:20 on Sunday afternoon a puck dropped, a crowd roared and our isolated little burg instantly regained its place in the elite club of major-league cities. With this, a new confidence has emerged, galvanizing our civic pride and public spirit.
While basking in the national spotlight, it is easy to forget that in only eight short months our beloved community-owned football team will be contributing its own bit of swagger to Winnipeg's new big-league attitude, with the opening of its new stadium at the University of Manitoba.
With the vast majority of stadiums being designed by a handful of large, specialized, American architecture firms, it is unique that Winnipeg's new facility has been taken on by the small local firm Raymond S.C. Wan Architect.
In 1882, three years before the CPR would drive the "Last Spike" and Louis Riel would lead the Northwest Rebellion, the first frontier town of the Canadian West began to establish itself on the banks of the Red River.
In that year, Sir John A. Macdonald would win re-election, newspapers across the American West would report the scandalous murder of the outlaw Jesse James and in Winnipeg, a shanty town of dirt roads and wooden sidewalks, a building boom would begin.
As the town's population soared to nearly 15,000, at the dusty corner of King and Alexander the new Coronation Block would begin to rise. It would be home to the mayor's office and council chambers while the elegant Victorian city hall was being built down the street.
A Google search of the term 'Winnipeg architecture' yields a colourful grid of thumbnail images that graphically illustrates the city's unique physical character. Instantly distinguishable from similar searches of Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver, the results portray the familiar kaleidoscope of arched windows, Tyndall-stone columns and reflective glass walls that have come to define Winnipeg's modern built form.
Winnipeg's distinct architectural character is largely the result of unique growth patterns in the last century that saw rapid expansion during the two decades before the First World War and after the Second World War, each followed by long periods of economic stagnation. The city's current urban form has been largely defined by the architectural legacy left by these two distinct boom periods.