Since I bought a copy of “I. M. Pei: A Profile in American Architecture“ by chance twenty years ago, I have been fascinated by beautiful buildings and the architects themselves. Last week I had the great pleasure to interview Sasa Radulovic and Johanna Hurme, award winning principal architects and co-owners of Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture Inc, to talk about their firm, The Cube, and other exciting projects.
Branding of 5468796 Architecture Inc
What does the “5468796” stand for in the name 5468796 Architecture Inc? Why not use the traditional branding convention and brand the firm by the names of the principals and founders? Have a watch of the cool explanations in my interview with Sasa and Johanna. It shows their careful thinking from day one “to challenge convention at all scales, [starting] from branding“.
The Cube (Winnipeg Old Market Square Stage) (Project 0134 | Stage)
Here is an excerpt from the project description (emphasis added), “Whether functioning as a neighbourhood park or as a hub for the entire city during summer festivals, Old Market Square has undeniable significance for the health and vitality of the Exchange District. Following the establishment of a Master Plan for OMS by landscape architects Scatliff+Miller+Murray Inc., a new stage was the logical next step in the park’s redevelopment. Through an open competition, the city asked for a design that met the functional requirements for a stage. Our winning submission proposed to do more; we recognized that the stage only functions as such for a very limited time, and questioned what it could be the rest of the year.“
The Cube was opened in June 2010 for the festivals season when it was only about 85% completed and before 5468796 Architecture had chances to fine tune the building. So I think many early critiques of the design are not fair. The final winning idea for The Cube was actually one of three ideas submitted by 5468796 Architecture and was deemed the best.
You see, the Cube is not just a stage, it can also function as an exhibition space for video artists where video images can be projected on the skin of The Cube. And different themed colour lighting can be projected on different days (for example, orange on Halloween, green on St. Patrick’s day, etc).
A lesser known fact about The Cube is its smaller second stage on the “second level” inside The Cube. This second stage can be used for smaller and more intimate performance (seating ~25?). In the following video, you can see Sasa shows you the second stage in a model.
For the remaining time in my interview with Sasa and Johanna, I picked the following projects and got them to say a few words and share their key inspirations.
Sunspot (Project 0155, Client: The Forks)
Here is an excerpt from the project description (emphasis added), “The Sunspot hangs from the Forks’ Historic Rail Bridge, hovering just three feet above the frozen river. Composed of a structural frame coated in a skin of ice and coloured water, the interior is rendered with a vibrant and warm glow that evokes Tarsia’s painting plates. A large diameter opening at the bottom of the sphere allows skaters to enter and experience the transformed sky. The bottom ring provides a rope-wrapped bench to rest on, while the structure offers shelter from the wind.“
More photo here.
Here is an excerpt from the project description (emphasis added), “The design focuses on the significance of prospect and refuge for residents and patrons of Welcome Place – who are just beginning to make a place for themselves in Canada – through the integration and overlap of public and private space. The private spaces are defined by a random patterning of windows that form a uniquely textured facade with multiple views to the exterior. Walls have thickness so these views feel less expansive and more protective. The public realm begins with a sunken courtyard outside the main doors, forming an exterior ‘room’ for community functions. Within the building, public spaces are located at the building’s edges, permeating through the facade to engage the streetscape below.“
For this project, I asked Sasa about his special connection to MIIC‘s Welcome Place, which aims to help immigrants and refugees newly arrived in Canada. You can also read more in the article “Designing for desperate needs“.
More photo here.
BGBX (Project 0022, client: CSB Corp.)
Here is an excerpt from the project description (emphasis added), “The project begins as a white corrugated metal box, a blank slate which is then strategically sliced at six points to reveal unexpected glimpses of lush, green foliage at the block’s centre. The landscaped courtyard cuts away at the box from the inside out to create a dynamic, multi-facetted courtyard facade.
The design seeks innovation at all levels, including its building systems. Hollowcore concrete slabs are used as air plenums, eliminating the need for ductwork. Abundant vegetation in the courtyard acts as lungs for the entire block, providing fresh air for residents. Gray water cisterns collect run-off from the roofs while permeable surfacing and bioswales in the courtyard filter runoff water into the soil.“
More photos here.
Bohemier Residence (Project 0007, private residence)
Here is an excerpt from the project description, “The essence of the old house, not its actual presence, becomes the centre of the new residence, as the original foundation is preserved as a sunken courtyard. It turns the former spatial arrangement inside out: house to courtyard, yard to house, solid to void, void to solid. This shift allows the ghost of the old house to remain. The courtyard expands the visual space beyond the distinct rooms and creates a nexus around which circulation spirals in three dimensions.”
big brother | little sister (Project 0000, client: Sasa | Johanna)
Here is an excerpt from the project description, “The 1800 sq ft & 1100 sq ft dwellings were designed and constructed as a pair from their inception to completion. They share a conceptual approach and attitude to detailing, while exhibiting unique qualities and personalities responding to the residents’ priorities.
[…] Each condominium flows freely around the enclosed functions organized at their centres, leaving the exterior walls free of joining partitions. Zones within are separated for visual privacy by procession sequences from one scale to another.“
The Winnipeg Free Press 2006 article “Cutting-edge” has more details about “big brother | little sister” where Sasa and Johanna are the architects and clients. (note: They still live in “big brother | little sister”.)
Emerging Architecture Award
Finally, I asked Sasa and Johanna a few questions about winning the Emerging Architecture Award. The readers of this article may wonder how big a deal is this? Well, let me quote Winnipeg Free Press’ article “Maligned Cube wins international award” (emphasis added),
“So how big a deal is it to win an Emerging Architecture Award? Very big, according to Manitoba Association of Architects president Art Martin.
Martin said the EAs, which were founded in 1999, are considered one of the world’s most popular and prestigious awards for young architects. He said this year’s competition attracted about 300 entries worldwide.
“For a Manitoba firm to get this award is really something. All (Manitoba) architects can share in that pride.”“
I love great architectural works, so it was a great pleasure for me to talk to Sasa Radulovic and Johanna Hurme, two internationally recognized emerging architects. It will not surprise me if I see them creating more beautiful, fascinating and functionally cutting-edge buildings in the years to come. In time, I am sure I will see some of their works in Calgary, across Canada, and around the world.
By the way, at the end of part 3 of the interview clip, I have included pictures of the projects I highlighted above and I hope you will enjoy them. Visit 5468796 Architecture Inc for other projects that I didn’t get around to feature.
P.S. More news links, photos, video in my previous article “Congrats 5468796 Architecture: Emerging Architecture Award (The Cube in Winnipeg’s Old Market Square)“
P.P.S. Feel free to check out my other articles about architecture and architects in Bird’s Nest: Herzog & de Meuron in China – Filmmaker chat“, “Frank Gehry (Live from the NYPL)” and mentioning my other favourite architects like Douglas Cardinal, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava (his stunning Turning Torso) in “American Institute of Architects & Google Earth“.