Brent Bellamy

  • 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.
  • How to fill potholes

    The people of Winnipeg have become a tired and irritable bunch. They have endured the worst winter since the invention of the automobile and now are living through what might be the worst spring for potholes since they started making roads for those vehicles. It's understandable then, that as city council was presented with the details of a $590-million plan to complete the city's first leg of rapid transit, the public, politicians and media all wondered aloud if the money would be better spent filling that proliferation of potholes.
  • WAG's neighbour from the North

    The powerful forms of Inuit art, a dancing soapstone bear, a majestic ivory narwhal or an etching of a snowy owl, shape the symbolic imagery of Canada's northern indigenous people. The distinctive works that have come to represent this ancient culture are, surprisingly, a modern form of artistic expression. The idea of establishing a self-sufficient handicrafts industry across the Arctic was promoted in the early 1950s by the federal government as a means of providing economic opportunity in northern communities.
  • Leadership makes wheels turn

    Winnipeg played host last week to the second International Winter Cycling Congress. Nearly 200 delegates from across North America gathered to discuss the challenges of urban winter cycling and celebrate the benefits it can have for northern cities. The health and quality-of-life-benefits cycling as urban transportation can bring to the citizens of a city are obvious. Numerous studies show commuters who cycle are generally healthier; they feel less stress, sleep better and have more energy. Physically active employees often show improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and turnover.
  • Embracing density

    It has been a difficult time for Winnipeg's infrastructure. Our water periodically looks, but certainly doesn't taste, like a fine Canadian whisky. A combination of the polar vortex and daily water-main breaks has entombed cars from Charleswood to Transcona in knee-deep ice. Recent snow-clearing efforts left most of us wanting to trade in our car for a late-model Mars Rover, and of course in the not-too-distant future, the annual pothole invasion will begin. The rising cost of maintaining this infrastructure and other civic services have left the City of Winnipeg scrambling to balance its budget, resulting in a third straight property-tax hike for 2014. This increase will be accompanied by a rise in sewer and water rates and likely, education taxes. A few months ago, a KPMG report recommended a 'winter surcharge' be added to property taxes in years when snow-removal costs exceed the city budget.
  • Superboxes: Dare to dream

    Canada is a nation of 35 million people, with 19 million Facebook users and four million Twitter accounts. In 2013, Canadians for the first time sent more than 100 billion text messages. Globally, more than two million emails are sent every second of every day. Technology has fundamentally changed how we communicate, how we pay our bills, how we shop, play and do business. The effect of this evolution on the traditional mail service recently became clear with a Canada Post announcement of sweeping restructuring plans that include the controversial replacement of urban door-to-door delivery with community superboxes, commonly found in suburban subdivisions and rural municipalities.
  • Bold concept for pumphouse may enhance strong appeal of Exchange

    Imagine a Winnipeg that could build the Union Bank Tower, Canada's first skyscraper, the nation's tallest building, crowned with the British Commonwealth's highest flagpole. Imagine a Winnipeg that could have more construction in a single year than Toronto and Montreal combined. The Winnipeg of 1904 optimistically pushed skyward with every new building, marking its place on the world stage with its towers, just as developing cities such as Dubai and Shanghai do today. At the heart of Winnipeg's rampant vertical growth was the security of the most sophisticated high-pressure fire-protection system in the world. At full production, 35,000 litres of Red River water could be pushed through a 13-kilometre network of pipes, powered by six massive engines housed in the James Avenue Pumping Station.
  • Window to the past, and future

    Winnipeg in the 1890s was a bustling city of 30,000 people. Horse-drawn carriages dodged new electric trolley cars as pedestrians click-clacked along oak-plank boardwalks lining the sides of wide, mud-packed streets. In residential areas, the tradition of planting boulevard trees was initiated to beautify the featureless prairie city. Many of the 12,000 elm trees planted in that first decade were located in the Hudson's Bay Company Reserve, a parcel of land surrounding Upper Fort Garry, retained by HBC as payment for surrendering Rupert's Land in 1870.
  • Think like big-city neighbours

    Over the past few weeks, Winnipeg newspapers have been filled with scandalous stories of government mismanagement and partisanship that has paralyzed city hall in a quagmire of resignation, accusation and recrimination. As the citizens of Winnipeg focused on the dysfunction of their city's municipal leadership, voters in Alberta's two largest cities went to the polls to elect what has been dubbed Canada's dynamic duo of civic politics. In Edmonton, former city councillor Don Iveson, 34, received nearly two-thirds of the vote to become Canada's youngest big-city mayor. Calgary's wildly popular incumbent mayor, Naheed Nenshi, 41, swept back into power with support from almost three-quarters of voters.
  • Downtown development will exemplify quality design

    ‘IT is fatal to specialize... the more diverse we are in what we do, the better.’ — Jane Jacobs In 1961 Jane Jacobs wrote her landmark book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It would redefine our understanding of what makes urban areas vibrant, prosperous and safe. Jacobs likened the city to a living organism, where physical elements such as buildings, parks and sidewalks worked in harmony with social and economic conditions to create a spontaneous blend of what she called "organized complexity." She emphasized the importance of buildings that interact with their surroundings and engage pedestrians along the sidewalk, insisting even large buildings be attractive, welcoming and offer a visually rich experience at the human scale.
  • Let Portage and Main breathe

    At 10 o'clock this morning, there will be precisely 2,000 days left until the intersection of Portage and Main, Winnipeg's famous windy corner, can legally be opened once again to pedestrians. Whether it will open or not remains to be seen. The story is well-known by now. With the construction of the Trizec building in the late 1970s, an underground connection was made to each of the intersection's four corners. In an effort to force people into the shops that lined the concourse, a 40-year agreement was signed with the six adjacent property owners that read, "The city agrees that it will not consent to any construction of a pedestrian crossing over or under any street" (at Portage and Main). Concrete barricades adorned with colourful flowers were installed and the intersection was sealed off to a generation of people.

About Brent Bellamy

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


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