Brent Bellamy

  • The past must be part of the future

    Thirty years ago, Winnipeg's Exchange District was a hollow collection of pollution-stained industrial warehouses surrounded by treeless streets and empty sidewalks. At night, a checkerboard of dimly lit windows behind the facades of darkened buildings would reveal a subculture of artists and musicians using the low-rent spaces as studios and squatter residences. From the street, the heavy brick walls would only partially muffle the nocturnal sound of rehearsing local rock bands, as old single-pane windows pulsed to the beat of the music inside. Albert Street was heart of the city's seedy 'red light district', anchored by the Royal Albert and St. Charles Hotels. Their dingy bars, smelling like a potent cocktail of sweat, smoke and marijuana, were the centre of a vibrant local punk rock scene. The district itself was the heart of a thriving artistic community.
  • Seeing our forest for the trees

    As Winnipeg's trees drop their leaves and brace themselves for another winter, the full effects of the city's tireless battle against Dutch elm disease has revealed itself once again. Trees resigned to their ultimate fate wear an orange dot of paint like a scarlet letter, and significant gaps can now be seen in the once-continuous tree canopy that rises above many of the city's neighbourhoods. In 1900, Winnipeg's civic leaders decided that to elevate the image of their gritty, featureless prairie town, residential streets should be built with boulevards and lined with grand trees. The American elm was the species of choice because it was beautiful, resilient and readily available to be transplanted from the city's riverbanks.
  • Rail relocation should be on radar

    The Arlington Bridge originally being built to span the Nile River is one of many stories that live on in Winnipeg folklore. Its legend sits alongside Winnie the Pooh, the real James Bond, Bob Hope's first golf game and a legislative building filled with mystical secrets of the Freemasons. Sadly however, it appears the story of the Arlington Bridge will soon be lost to us.
  • From parking lot to urban paradise

    It is rare for a city to be given an opportunity to build a brand new neighbourhood in the heart of its downtown. When it happens, it is usually the result of an industry that was once the economic engine relocating out of the modern core. In Toronto, the railway lands along Lake Ontario have seen a multibillion-dollar transformation into a forest of highrises, altering the city's postcard skyline image into something resembling lower Manhattan. False Creek was once the industrial heart of Vancouver, but today it is home to 60,000 people living in a signature West Coast condo tower neighbourhood.
  • Prairie icons in danger of extinction

    Summer is a season of road trips. For many Manitobans, the idea of driving across the prairie evokes a nostalgic image of a pastoral landscape. A black ribbon of asphalt is seen vanishing toward a razor-sharp divide between golden wheat fields and a brilliant blue sky. The horizon line is broken only by the angular silhouette of a soaring grain elevator, its familiar form appearing in endless repetition as the miles pass behind. Today, those iconic wooden towers are becoming an increasingly rare feature in this idyllic image. At their peak, almost 6,000 elevators dotted the Canadian Prairies, sitting every 12 to 16 kilometres along the rail lines. Over the past few decades, as family farms and transportation networks have modernized and consolidated, the role of the local town elevator has been lost. Fewer than 10 per cent of those 6,000 are still standing, with only half of those remaining in operation.
  • Empowerment on wheels: It's time to support lifestyle choices of all

    In an odd twist of Winnipeg politics, Couns. Jeff Browaty, Russ Wyatt, Ross Eadie, Shawn Dobson and Jason Schreyer are playing a role usually reserved for special-interest lobby groups by airing radio ads to rally public opinion against the pedestrian-and-cycling strategy, which council will vote on Wednesday. The radio ads claim, "Mayor and council are rushing through a long-term plan to spend $300 million on commuter cycling infrastructure." As with all political sound bites, the targeted message often requires context to be fully understood.
  • Even if requirements have been met by developers, local opposition can scuttle plans

    'I support development, just not THIS development' 'People are going to park on my street!'
  • Plan would redefine downtown

    Most mid-sized North American cities have struggled to maintain a healthy downtown retail market. Winnipeg is no different. Shops that once lined Portage Avenue have been replaced by government offices and for lease signs. Longtime anchors such as Eaton's and Holt Renfrew are now only a memory and The Bay is withering away like a fruit clinging to a branch in late autumn. The city's sprawling suburbs are served by big-box stores floating in oceans of asphalt parking.
  • Bigger roads mean more traffic

    ‘THAT money could be better spent fixing our city’s crumbling roads.” This familiar sentiment is often heard following any new spending announcement that comes out of Winnipeg city hall.
  • The sneaky parking-lot plot

    IN the past decade, downtown has experienced development and renewal. To keep up with increasing electrical demand and serve this growth, Manitoba Hydro will soon begin construction on a new $62-million substation downtown. It will be located on a large parking lot at the corner of Adelaide Street and Notre Dame Avenue, previously owned by nearby Calvary Temple. As part of the transaction to secure the property, Hydro agreed to replace the church parking by co-ordinating the purchase of an adjacent 40-stall lot with the intent of demolishing four commercial buildings along Notre Dame to make room for another 35 cars. An application to the city for a demolition permit has not yet been submitted, but intentions to do so have been made public.
  • Wood expands possibilities

    Prosperous residents make prosperous cities. With housing costs typically constituting the largest portion of personal expenditures, housing affordability has become a principal determinant of the standard of living in urban areas. Access to adequate housing plays an important role in building strong communities and is a vital social indicator of health, equality and inclusion. Consistently rising real estate values during the last decade have made access to affordable housing a difficult challenge for cities across Canada. In Winnipeg, since 2005 the average cost of a home has increased by 100 per cent and rental rates have grown by 70 per cent, while the average annual income has increased by only 34 per cent.
  • Beyond big-box: Transition away from mega-stores bodes well for urban landscape

    When Disneyland opened its doors in 1955, visitors experienced for the first time a stroll down Main Street U.S.A., Walt Disney's nostalgic interpretation of the central pedestrian shopping strip most North American cities and towns had grown up around. Winnipeg's example of this high street was Portage Avenue, stretching through downtown from its famous intersection at Main Street. Anchored by Eaton's, the 10th-largest department store in the world, the avenue's shops, theatres and restaurants made it the social, retail and cultural heart of the city for more than a century.
  • Racial peace through architecture

    The Maclean's article -- three words that when spoken anywhere in Winnipeg over the past few weeks would invariably spark a passionate and polarizing conversation. It is not often that a national periodical publishes such a charged condemnation of an entire city, but shining a spotlight on Winnipeg's racial divide has created an opportunity to further an already pervasive dialogue about our city's most complex challenge. More indigenous people live in Winnipeg than in any other Canadian metropolitan area, representing the city's youngest and fastest-growing community. As a proportion, Métis and First Nations people have gone from constituting 2.9 per cent of the city's overall population in 1981 to more than 13 per cent today.
  • From why Winterpeg to why not?

    It is mid-January, and through hard crusts of frozen breath on their tightly wrapped scarves, Winnipeggers across the city can be heard muttering to themselves "Why do I live here?" Winnipeg doesn't have many things that can truly be described as world-class, but winter is certainly one of them. For a major city (with a population over 500,000) our January average temperatures are the fourth-coldest on Earth, rivalling cities in Siberia, Mongolia and northern China.
  • Energy efficiency not cheap

    Every young intern architect in the country has been through the experience of having their eyes glaze over when first trying to solve the Rubik's Cube puzzle known as the National Building Code of Canada. For those in Manitoba, that challenge just became much more difficult. This month, the province became one of the first in Canada to adopt the National Energy Code for Buildings. The target of these new regulations is to increase the average energy efficiency of new construction by 25 per cent and to reduce levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 450,000 tonnes, equivalent to removing 90,000 vehicles from Manitoba's roads during the next 20 years.
  • Campuses return to core

    Weighed down by book-filled backpacks, groups of young people brave the autumn cold as they race between monumental stone buildings set geometrically around a sprawling open lawn. This pastoral scene is the traditional image of a university campus, but today, post-secondary institutions across Canada are creating a new backdrop for student life by returning to the bustling streets and soaring office towers in the cores of cities. In an age of globalization and mobility, universities increasingly have to compete nationally and internationally for students. Young people today are more often looking for cosmopolitan lifestyle choices and are beginning to focus on educational programming that will make them career- or enterprise-ready upon graduation.
  • A new urban agenda

    Two weeks ago, Winnipeggers made an emphatic statement that it is time to move in a new direction. On Election Day, voters rewarded mayoral candidates who were not afraid to dream. They overwhelmingly supported those with urban-focused priorities, moving past the traditional debates of potholes, photo radar and synchronizing traffic lights, to engage with ideas that described a broader vision for the city. The biggest surprise of the day was the performance of Brian Bowman and Robert-Falcon Ouellette. Both men came into the campaign with low name recognition and little public support. In the end, each captured the attention of voters by presenting big-picture visions for the city. They had many differing ideas, but the underlying commonality in their platforms was a commitment to an openly urbanist agenda.
  • How to fall in love with our city

    Winnipeg's population is increasing only because of immigration. Its downtown is expanding largely because of public subsidies. Crime rates in the city remain high and social inequity is growing. Roads are crumbling, civic services are declining and taxes are rising in an attempt to keep up with the low-density, sprawling city we have decided to build. The people chosen in Winnipeg's upcoming municipal election will have a number of significant challenges ahead.  
  • CMHR's future is up to us all

    It has been 4,549 days since the Winnipeg Free Press first announced media mogul Israel Asper had been secretly championing an idea to construct a national museum at The Forks, in the centre of the city. Children born on that day are now in Grade 8. This weekend, finally, the world will be given the opportunity to step through the museum's doors and into Mr. Asper's imagination. When the concept of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was unveiled, it seemed to be an impossible dream. The average house price in Winnipeg was $98,000. The city had 80,000 fewer residents. There was no new airport, Manitoba Hydro tower or Investors Group Field. Our hockey team was a minor-league franchise playing in a 50-year-old arena. We were not used to big things yet.
  • Many of city’s well-known buildings designed by New York architects

    REFERRING to Winnipeg as the ‘Chicago of the North’ is like comparing the city to a famous child actor who, after his television show was cancelled, spent the rest of his life reminiscing about his time in the spotlight. Focusing on this Chicago comparison not only discredits the diversity of what Winnipeg is today, it dilutes what the city was during the booming, turn-of-the-century rail-town days that inspired its nickname.
  • Grand vision for Union Station

    In 1908, the headlines of the Manitoba Free Press boldly proclaimed Winnipeg's new train depot, to be constructed at the foot of Broadway, would be "the most modern railway terminal in the world." It described the building as magnificent in proportions and luxurious in its appointments, the finest in the Dominion. American architects Warren and Wetmore, who were simultaneously designing Grand Central Station in New York, would go on to create a building that stood as the gateway to the Canadian West, a symbol of prosperity and optimism in the young city.
  • More than the museum

    Nearly 20 years ago, the swirling titanium panels of a new Guggenheim Museum transformed a blue-collar city named Bilbao, Spain into a flourishing centre of culture and design. This inspired cities across the globe to build ever-more sensational public buildings, hoping to recreate the elusive "Bilbao Effect." As Winnipeg prepares to open its own iconic museum, the lesson that can be learned from the experience of these cities is translating a building like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights into a broader development catalyst, requires a focused effort to build complementary projects that expand the museum's influence beyond its walls.
  • Let's make River City a reality

    Winnipeg is sometimes referred to as River City. Despite owing its very existence to the conflux of two waterways and having four distinct rivers flowing through its boundaries, the reality is Winnipeg is anything but a true river city. For more than a century, we have turned our back on the rivers. Travel down the Red or Assiniboine by boat and it is striking how rarely they are engaged by development. From the water it appears almost as though the city doesn't exist. Only downtown office towers that peak over the grand elm trees hint at its urban location. In Winnipeg, rivers are often crossed but they are rarely approached.
  • Winnipeg: City of architectural delights

    In the few decades leading up to the year 1914, Winnipeg transformed itself from an isolated trading post to a brash, cosmopolitan metropolis. When a new train station needed to be built, the architects of New York's Grand Central were hired. When the Union Bank needed a new building at the bend in Main Street, they constructed Canada's first skyscraper, the tallest in the Dominion. Some of the finest architects in the country designed elegant banking halls, majestic terra cotta towers and grand theatre houses such as the Met, Capitol, Walker and Pantages.
  • Diversity is a place called home

    Winnipeg is a city with few natural advantages. It's flat, isolated and cold. It doesn't have Vancouver's snowcapped peaks, Victoria's elegant harbourfront or Toronto's economic engine. What Winnipeg does have is old buildings. Although many people view these aging structures as dusty relics that symbolize decay and lack of progress, a change in perspective might reveal an asset that can be leveraged as a catalyst for growth in the same way as Edmonton's river valley or Quebec's historic ramparts.

About Brent Bellamy

Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.


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