Designing Winnipeg’s Skyline: The Architectural Legacy of Green Blankstein Russell
Through the eyes of Grade 4 Based on archival photos from the Jewish Heritage Centre collection, Grade 4 students have created their own interpretations of renowned Manitoba landmarks designed by Green Blankstein Russell (GBR), one of Winnipeg’s most influential architectural firms.
The students’ impressive work showcases the beauty of modernist structures in Manitoba. Each drawing and corresponding artist statement highlights students’ learning not only about artistic technique but also about the rich history of design and building in our province.
Green, Blankstein, Russell and Associates
The city of Winnipeg saw a boom in modernist architecture beginning in the 1950s. This is especially apparent in the blocks neighboring City Hall on Main Street and on the Campus of the University of Manitoba. Few architectural firms could claim to have had a greater impact on this development than Green, Blankstein, Russell. From civil to religious, educational to industrial, their influence continues to be felt throughout the city nearly ninety years after the founding of the firm.
Formed in 1932 by Lawrence Green, Cecil Blankstein, G. Leslie Russell and Ralph Ham as Green, Blankstein, Russell and Associates, the firm would work steadily in the first two decades of its existence. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that they would begin to develop their own modernist style and begin to truly make their mark on the city. After a number of low-cost housing proposals for the municipal government failed to receive funding, the firm put the experience and knowledge they developed into the Wildwood Park neighborhood in the city’s south.
Major works for the Jewish community began in 1950 with the construction of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue (quick sandbagging prevented the building from being overwhelmed by the 1950 flood before it had even opened). Two years later, the YMHA building opened on Hargrave Street. Three years earlier, the firm also designed the Glendale Country Club, the only golf club in Manitoba that was open to Jews.
The 1950s also had the firm develop churches (St. George’s Anglican Church and St. Paul’s College and Chapel), commercial spaces (Polo Park Shopping Centre) and office buildings (Great West Life Building). However, their biggest impact on the city was to come in the following decade.
The renewal of the city’s downtown began with the new City Hall complex in 1964. By the end of the decade this urban development project included the Centennial Concert Hall and the Museum of Man and Nature and the Planetarium directly across from City Hall.
The modernist style of the University of Manitoba campus would be heavily influenced by GBR. Notable buildings on the Fort Garry Campus of the University include the Elizabeth Dafoe Library (1951-52), the Science Complex (1961-62), St. Andrew’s College (1963) and the Duff Roblin Building. The aesthetic brought to the campus by GBR and other local firms would come to be called University of Manitoba Modern.
The firm would continue to develop projects in various sectors throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s. This includes the Asper Jewish Community Campus (1997) that currently houses most of the city’s Jewish organizations. In 2004 the firm was acquired by the Edmonton-based firm Stantec.