Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cube brings curtain down

Loose rivets force relocation of shows

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A riveting performance at the iconic stage in Old Market Square has shut down the Cube for the next two weeks.

Loose rivets in the metal curtains adorning the architecturally bold, but functionally challenged, outdoor stage have forced the Exchange District BIZ to relocate the remaining summer shows slated for the venue.

The BIZ shut down the stage on Tuesday afternoon, following a Winnipeg Folk Festival-sponsored performance by Victoria, B.C., roots act Fish & Bird. Some of the rivets in the retractable metal curtain at the front of the stage had popped loose, said BIZ operations manager Derek Manaigre.

"I'm not comfortable raising it any more. Too much wear and tear," he said, referring to the stage's retractable, chain-mail skin. "Once it's up, it's perfectly safe."

Six of the seven remaining performances slated for the Cube this summer have been moved to the outdoor stage at 201 Portage Ave., the former Canwest building, said marketing director Stephanie Scherbain.

The seventh -- another Winnipeg Folk Festival event -- will be held in Old Market Square, in front of the stage.

Chris Frayer, the festival's artistic director, said he's disappointed he won't be able to conclude his series at the stage, which he described as a triumph of form over function.

"I like the structure itself, but I don't think it was built with music and performance in mind. I don't know if the form and function coalesce in this design," Frayer said. "It succeeds as a piece of art, but it comes up short as a performance space."

Since the Cube was completed in 2010, at a cost of $1.2 million, raising the chain-mail curtain has been the stage's greatest challenge. Winches installed in 2011 improved the process, Frayer said.

"I thought it was a work in progress and it's been getting better and better," he said. "But that curtain is lethal if there's any malfunction. It's hundreds of pounds of serrated metal (so) I'm glad they've done what they've done, looking out for the safety of people."

The city checks out the curtain every spring to ensure it's safe to operate, but this is the first time it's had to close the stage during the summer, said John Kiernan, manager of urban design for the City of Winnipeg.

"We had some concerns after three years of operation," Kiernan said. "Every time we open and close it, there are different stresses. We're trying to address that with a long-term solution."

The city has enlisted a consultant to help figure out a way to improve the functioning of the curtain. That report is due within weeks, Kiernan said.

He said he believes the Cube is a successful venue, despite its operational challenges.

The designers of the stage, Sasa Radulovic and Johanna Hurme of Winnipeg's 5468796 Architecture, were out of the country Tuesday and unavailable to comment. Company spokeswoman Mandy Aldcorn described the loose rivets as a regular maintenance issue.

Months after the completion of the Cube in 2010, 5468796 Architecture received an Emerging Architecture commendation from the London-based Architectural Review magazine and the Royal Institute of British Architecture

Archive video: The Cube in Old Market Square

video player to use on WFP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2012 B1

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