Story Ideas

Open your eyes to Winnipeg’s wild and wonderful architecture.

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is the latest gem to adorn Canada’s most eclectic skyline.

07 May 2014

Suggested tweet: Seeing is believing: Winnipeg’s wild and wonderful architecture @TourismWPG #explorecanada

Take a walk through downtown Winnipeg, MB, and you’re strolling past a solid two centuries of perfectly preserved and brand-spankin’ new architectural history. This prairie city’s core has arguably the most eclectic assortment of building styles in Canada. Its newest gem, the Antoine Predock-designed Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) with its 100-m (328-ft) tall Tower of Hope, towers above the rest, surpassing the neighbouring Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge’s graceful needle by 40 m (131 ft).

While both are short stuff compared with Canadian cities’ skyscrapers, architecture here has always revolved around beauty, not size. The Exchange District’s early 1900s Chicago-inspired terracotta-detailed buildings, downtown’s 1960s Modernists, postmodern treasures such as the CMHR and—out in the ‘burbs—the glassy, triangular Winnipeg Mint plus the sweeping curves of the Investors Group sports stadium all prove aesthetics are what matters here. This holds true even in winter, when eye-candy warming huts, chosen from top designs in an annual international challenge, dot the world’s longest natural skating rink on the Assiniboine River.

Local architectural icon expert/author Frank Albo guides summer tours of the Freemason-built Manitoba Tyndall stone Legislative Building’s hidden symbols and secret meanings, while a summer walking tour along Kingsway, Harvard and Yale avenues, Ruskin Row and Wellington Crescent reveals Tudor and Georgian mansions.

In late May, Heritage Winnipeg throws an Open House so people can view downtown Victorian, Beaux-Arts neoclassical, Renaissance revival, Romanesque and Chicago School buildings. The passenger rail Beaux Arts-era Union Station opened in 1911, designed by the same architects of New York’s Grand Central Station. Across the street, the perfectly restored Fort Garry Hotel looms, Manitoba’s sole example of Château-style architecture. The Bank of Montreal at Portage and Main fused its original 1913 Romanesque structure with a 1980s slim, 22-storey granite-faced tower, while more early 1900s gems are found along Main Street to the north. The baroque-style onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches sprinkled around the city’s north end mark the pre-First World War influx of Ukrainian immigrants.

Mid-‘50s and ‘60s dreamers left their marks in Winnipeg, spinning Bauhaus into what’s now called Winnipeg Modernism. The 1960s-vintage Centennial Concert Hall, Manitoba Museum, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and City Hall campus make up a Modernist cluster on north Main Street.

Gus da Roza’s 1970 Tyndall stone Winnipeg Art Gallery at the edge of downtown resembles a giant ship’s prow. Adjacent to the gallery, the 1926-vintage Hudson Bay building was—when it opened—Canada’s largest reinforced concrete building. Across the street, the Winnipeg Clinic looks like a Modernist hiccup jostled by post-modern office buildings. In St. Boniface, Étienne Gaboury’s 1968 Scandinavian Expressionist Paroisse du Précieux-Sang (Church of the Precious Blood) scrolls upward.

When hunger strikes, step into the ’60s for a meal at Rae and Jerry's Steak House or grab a “Goog Special” at the summertime Bridge Drive-In (the city’s iconic ice-cream takeout joint). Or lunch at the Esplanade Riel’s Chez Sophie. You’ve earned it. And you’re not even part-way through Winnipeg’s building bucket list...

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