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CANADIAN ARCHITECT 02/20

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ALL THE RIGHT ANGLES

AN AWKWARD SITE IN WINNIPEG BECOMES HOME TO A JEWEL-LIKE LIBRARY. Windsor Park Library, Winnipeg, Manitoba david penner architect + h5 architecture TEXT Lawrence Bird PHOTOS Click.Studio / Lindsay Reid PROJECT

ARCHITECTS

The Prairie landscape plays out at the very large scale. Immense natural and infrastructural geometries stretch relentlessly across the land, before slipping into each other at odd angles: rail lines intersect, ribbons of water cut into farm grids. Winnipeg itself, as an urban form, is generated out of such collisions between railways, roads, rivers and land use patterns. It takes skill and know-how for an architect to accommodate immense geometries—so often the result of planning and infrastructural accidents—in a jewel of a building. This is what David Penner and h5 architecture (with principal Hélio Rodrigues) have achieved in their Windsor Park Library. It’s the third project they have designed together, and a small building. Nevertheless, it accommodates not only the accidental geometries of the city and region, but also the shifting technologies and social changes playing out today at a global scale. The library is bordered by five urban features: to the east, the fourlane arterial Archibald Road and a Canadian Pacific main line running parallel to it; to the south, Bonivital public swimming pool; to the north and west, the publicly owned Windsor Park golf course; and

running diagonally from southeast to northwest, a shallow ravine leading to the Seine, Winnipeg’s meandering third river. For years, the awkwardly shaped site served as a parking lot for municipal equipment. But in 2013, it was considered in a new light, as part of a project to rejuvenate Winnipeg’s library services. This renewal effort might be seen as a meeting of vision and municipal realpolitik. In a time of general fiscal austerity, community-oriented libraries are an appealing item to tackle from the list of infrastructure deficit projects. The program has resulted in a series of renovations (including work by Bridgman Collaborative and Public City Architecture) as well as several new libraries, among them, Windsor Park, Transcona Library (Cibinel Architecture, 2019) and Bill & Helen Norrie Library (LM Architectural Group, anticipated completion in 2020). Work at three other branches has been planned, but suspended, pending debate over Winnipeg’s current four-year budget. The work that has been completed so far is praiseworthy. According to Betty Parry of the City of Winnipeg’s Collection Development

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Canadian Architect February 2020  

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada’s only monthly design publication, Ca...

Canadian Architect February 2020  

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada’s only monthly design publication, Ca...