The Exchange District, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is home to a host of structures dating back to the city’s early 20th-century heyday as a critical waypoint for the country’s grain trade. The town had a booming population and economy, and much of the activity was focused on what is now known as Old Market Square. What remains from those salad days is a collection of historic industrial buildings populated by an arts community, and the square has become a public green space that plays host to summer festivals, outdoor concerts, impromptu yoga classes, and even weddings. And now, at the center of all this is an aluminum mesh cube, 28 feet long, wide, and tall.
The work of local firm 5468796 Architecture, Old Market Square (OMS) Stage is the result of a city-funded design competition to replace an old bandshell, which was used as few as 15 times per year, with something that would better engage the urban environment. “One of our inspirations was the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey that travels through time and fascinates everyone,” says firm principal Sasa Radulovic. “We thought: ‘Can we create something that could emanate that kind of energy from within?’ and ‘How can we do that with music, sound, and light from within so that it becomes a player in the city?’ ”
The new stage is lined with curtains formed from 20,000 identical extruded aluminum pieces, rotated to form a complex pattern. These modules are the final in a series of extrusions developed after months of research with metalworkers in a local Hutterite colony. They are held together with aircraft cable and rivets, and form a versatile backdrop for projections and illumination; the flexible mesh curtains can also be winched back on two sides of the cube to reveal the stage within.“The project started off as a bandshell, but ended up being something else,” Radulovic says. “Whether your event is 30 people or 30,000 people, you can hold it there.”
Project Old Market Square Stage, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Client Winnipeg Exchange District BIZ
Architect 5468796 Architecture, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada—Mandy Aldcorn, Apollo Au, Brandon Bergem, Ken Borton, Jordy Craddock, Jason Ejzenbart, Michelle Heath, Aynslee Hurdal, Johanna Hurme, Cristina Ionescu, Eva Kiss, Grant Labossiere, Jayne Miles, Colin Neufeld, Zach Pauls, Sean Radford, Sasa Radulovic, Shannon Wiebe, Sharon Wohl (project team)
Structural Engineer Lavergne Draward & Associates
Electrical Engineer Williams Engineering Canada
Lighting Design Ambiances Design Production
Builder Green Seed Development Corp.
Metal Fabricator KlarTech
Size 784 square feet
Cost $1 million Canadian ($914,495 U.S.)