Agency, indelible mark on Winnipeg

Hello time traveler!
This article has been published 04/12/2017 (1326 days ago) the information it contains may no longer be current.

The minds behind some of Winnipeg’s most iconic buildings of the 20th century are honored in a new book commissioned by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation.

WAF will feature Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy – a 160-page book with over 300 illustrations and pictures – on December 7th at 7pm at McNally Robinson Booksellers (1120 Grant Ave.)

SUPPLIED PHOTO BY HENRY KALEN

The Norquay Building (401 York Ave.) is pictured in 1960. It was the tallest building in downtown Winnipeg at the time of its construction. It was designed by Gilbert Parfitt (consultant architect to the Government of Manitoba) and David Thordarson (GBR).

Written by Jeffrey Thorsteinson and Brennan Smith, the book traces the work of the multidisciplinary architecture firm Green Blankstein Russell and Associates (GBR) since the early 1930s and into the late 20s of engineers behind buildings such as Winnipeg City Hall, the old Winnipeg International Airport and the Elizabeth Dafoe Library.

“GBR played an important role in the development of Winnipeg in the 20th century,” explained Smith, a local art historian. “We interact with their work in Winnipeg on a daily basis and are experienced by people across Canada.

“It is important to think about and understand and experience what the motivation and ideas behind the buildings that were created by the company were.”

The foreword to the book was written by Easton Lexier of River Heights. The 91-year-old worked for GBR as a civil engineer for 50 years and joined the company as a third-year student at the University of Manitoba. In 1966 he became chief civil engineer and in 1973 director of the company. Lexier retired in 1997 and the company was acquired by Stantec in 2004.

“I’ve loved going to work all 50 years of my life and I still do,” Lexier said.

Jeffrey Thorsteinson and Brennan Smith are authors of Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy, out December 7th at 7pm by McNally Robinson Booksellers

PROVIDED PHOTO

Jeffrey Thorsteinson and Brennan Smith are authors of Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy, out December 7th at 7pm by McNally Robinson Booksellers

“I left them physically, but not mentally, because I was always watching what they were doing. I came to the office to see them and even though they are now Stantec, I still do.”

Lexier said he was pleased that something was being done to recognize the company he describes as unusual and innovative among the agencies operating at the time.

GBR welcomed women and minorities to the company, employed engineers, interior designers and city planners under one roof, and led modernist design ideas in the country.

“It turned out that they were more than just an architecture firm, they developed an integrated office,” he said.

WAF will feature Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy - a 160-page book with over 300 illustrations and pictures - on December 7th at 7pm at McNally Robinson Booksellers (1120 Grant Ave.)

TYPE OF COVER SUPPLIED

WAF will feature Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy – a 160-page book with over 300 illustrations and pictures – on December 7th at 7pm at McNally Robinson Booksellers (1120 Grant Ave.)

Thorsteinson said the book will add to the wider Canadian architectural history discussion, as well as document the company’s culture and its impact on the built environment in Winnipeg and Canada.

“The company started in the middle of the Depression, and actually it started because of the Depression – there were five people out of work looking for work and they came up with this idea: what if we built this project around To accommodate people and? Experiment with modern architectural forms that could also build a better society, “said Thorsteinson.” It was probably a testimony to the social ethic that was very common in Winnipeg at the time. ”

While some of GBR’s most iconic works, like Winnipeg International Airport, have since been demolished (a fact Lexier says he complains every time he passes the airport), the company’s legacy still stands.

“When I walk the streets of Winnipeg I remember this job and this problem and the trouble with the owner there,” Lexier said. “The result of our work that comes out of our hands is for the people out there to stand up and use it.”

Facebook.com/TheSouwesterWPG
Twitter: @SouwesterWPG

Danielle da Silva

Comments are closed.