I have always enjoyed buildings. When I was a kid my family traveled on long summer vacations in our Ford Country Squire station wagon. We pulled our camper trailer around North America, through cities, towns and wilderness. I have vivid memories of peering through the backseat window (no seat belt on of course) and admiring the tall buildings, construction cranes and shimmering glass. Wherever we went, we toured every museum, landmark and tourist trap. I remember wondering who made these special places and enjoying the stories that they told through the environments they had created.
Whether it’s spiraling up the Guggenheim, gazing out from the Empire State, navigating the streets of Tijuana or pulsing through the Luxor in Las Vegas, the variety of experiences boggles the mind. I also remember the wonder of natural places; organic places that have been grown, carved out, or molded over time. Sometimes, the natural and the man-made come together. I can remember the calculated drama of approaching the base of Mount Rushmore. The approach starts with a winding drive through the Black Hills, continues by walking through a series of interpretive buildings and climaxes with a meandering path to the viewing platform.
These experiences have stayed with me and have influenced my career as an architect. We have the privilege of creating experiences for people. Those experiences range from the everyday mundane to the once in a lifetime. My admiration of place making continues to this day. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to create experiences. Places that hopefully make people’s lives enjoyable. As an architect, that is my joy.
Christmas 1949: As the clanging bells of passing streetcars fill the air, Winnipeggers with arms weighed down by shopping bags struggle for space on the busy sidewalks of Portage Avenue. The streets glow with coloured light, the gingerbread city hall sparkles in the distance. Children watch as mechanical figurines bring the Eaton's windows to life.
Christmas 1959: As festive music chimes down from above, encouraging shoppers to spend, a new Christmas tradition is born as Winnipeggers stroll on covered sidewalks past the manicured courtyards of Polo Park, the city's first shopping centre.
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.