Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Competition challenges architects to create dwellings for the Venice Biennale

  • Print

If you landed in a totally unfamiliar place as an immigrant or migrant, what sort of home would you design?

Would it echo your culture of origin while adapting to a strange new landscape, climate and construction materials?

Would it open up confidently to its surroundings, take a protective stance, or express the tension between settled and unsettled that newcomers feel?

Some of the brightest minds in Canadian architecture are asking questions of that kind as they gather in Winnipeg this week.

Migrating Landscapes has a free opening tonight at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and is on view until April 29. It's an exhibition of imaginative dwelling designs by 26 finalists in a high-profile national competition.

The winners -- likely 12 or 13 of them -- will be announced tonight at 7:30 at the WAG. They will represent Canada this fall at the three-month 2012 Venice Biennale in Architecture, the most prestigious international event in contemporary architecture.

The national jury includes famed Toronto architect Bruce Kuwabara, who designed Manitoba Hydro Place, and Vancouver's John Patkau, whose firm designed Winnipeg's Millennium Library addition.

Competitors submitted scale models to be "settled" onto a "plot" in a "new landscape" made of wood. They were asked to draw upon their own cultural memories and migration experiences.

There's a three-minute video for each entry that tells the entrant's story. The videos are projected continuously on five screens surrounding the "landscape." A printed guide provides more information and helps visitors match the videos with the models.

The 26 finalists include Canadian architects born in Iran, Romania, Mexico, Hong Kong and Israel, as well as Canadian-born entrants of diverse heritage, such as Mennonite and Métis.

Some entrants got creative with the migration concept, like the quirky entry from British Columbia based on a child's relocation from an established neighbourhood to a new house in a bland subdivision, confronting "the frontier of an unfinished basement."

Migrating Landscapes is a Winnipeg project, conceived and curated by the award-winning firm 5468796 Architecture (led by partners Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic) in partnership with University of Manitoba architecture professor Jae-Sung Chon. Jointly, they call themselves Migrating Landscapes Organizer (MLO).

Last May, the Canada Council and Architecture Canada chose MLO's ambitious proposal as Canada's official entry for the Venice Biennale, often called the Olympics of architecture.

"To have a Winnipeg group of architects represent Canada is huge," says WAG director Stephen Borys, who describes Migrating Landscapes as "an amazing sculptural installation."

The MLO team was surprised to win, says Chon, because typically, what's exhibited at the Canadian pavilion in Venice is structures that are already built. There's usually either a showcase (in photos and models) of one prominent Canadian architect's buildings, or a group exhibition of buildings on a theme.

MLO wanted to reach out to young architects and designers like themselves (entrants had to be under age 45) and exhibit regional entries across the country.

"It's never been done this way before," says Chon. "We didn't have the answers. We just had a lot of questions about migration stories and how that affects (Canadian) architectural work."

MLO put out a national call that drew 120 entries. Regional competitions were held in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Winnipeg (at The Forks last month), narrowing the field to 26.

The project's budget is nearly $1 million (including more than $100,000 worth of unpaid time by the curators). About $226,000 has come from government and foundation grants, and $392,000 from sponsorships and donations. Organizers are still fundraising.

The fragrant, vertical lumber pieces that are packed together to form the modular "landscape" reflect diversity themselves. They were sourced from several provinces and include fir, poplar, hemlock, spruce, pine and maple.

The idea for Migrating Landscapes came from the shared experiences of Hurme, Radulovic and Chon as immigrants in the 1990s. Hurme, 36, is from Finland. Radulovic, 39, fled the former Yugoslavia as a war refugee.

Chon, 42, was raised in South Korea and came to Canada as a 20-year-old student. He arrived in Toronto on a Sunday and thought it was a "ghost town" compared with Seoul, a dense city of 12 million. "I had a really shocking landing experience," he says.

Chon recalls that when he started doing residential design, he found it very unsettling and un-homelike that Canadian wood-frame houses have hollow exterior walls.

"You're supposed to enclose a room with solid walls," he says, chuckling. "I felt there was something wrong."

As he writes on the Migrating Landscapes website, "The walls I knew from Korea were solid cement.... This sense of wall-less-ness lasted for a long time, and still lingers."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2012 D1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Chief justices breakdown cameras in courtroom project

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos


What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google