Project DescriptionWhat If Big Box Stores Inspired a Green Community?
BGBX / 5468796 Architecture
A 355-foot-by-97-foot vacant lot on an industrial strip in Winnipeg, Canada. The surrounding neighborhoods are residential.
Twenty-four units of housing, flexible commercial space, and covered parking arranged around a central bioswale courtyard, with public decks connected by circulation bridges.
To create a sense of community in an inhospitable environment, 5468796 Architecture turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: the big box store. Calling upon their experience with projects ranging in scale from private residences to airport hotels, this 12-person Winnipeg-based firm began the design process for BGBX with a simple volume that filled the site. From there, the team carved out pathways and a central courtyard, resulting in six discrete, but irregularly shaped, housing blocks. Contained within them are 24 residential units ranging in size from 660 to 1,195 square feet. While some jurors expressed concern about the scheme’s inward focus and wondered if the architects missed an opportunity by turning the building’s back on the neighborhood with anonymous corrugated metal cladding, juror John Peterson was taken with the approach. “I think it’s pretty provocative,” he said.
The courtyard is a public green space, accessible not only to residents but also to the surrounding community. A lush bioswale is accented with decks, a gazebo, and bridges to encourage open use of the park—the only one in the industrial neighborhood. The façades of the housing volumes facing the courtyard are clad in concrete board panels that are hand-painted with pixelated images of trees. This effect intensifies and blends with the summer foliage and provides a warm contrast against the bleak winter snowfall. “I like it,” said juror James Richärd, “and I almost wish the core had actually gotten even more playful.”