PROJECT Bloc_10, Winnipeg, Manitoba
ARCHITECT 5468796 Architecture
PHOTOS 5468796 Architecture

Bloc_10 is a condominium project situated on a busy traffic corridor in Winnipeg’s postwar neighbourhood of River Heights. Starting from a standard three-storey vertical volume, the individual floor plates of each walk-up are strung together along a common core, then staggered across the site to provide unique unit compositions and a multiplicity of views.

The strict zoning setbacks established the initial maximum mass of the development. This mass was then carved back to allow for vehicular movement and outdoor areas, while leaving a screen wall in place of the initial allowable built volume. Inside, a common service core contains all mechanical services and circulation space in the building, freeing the open living space to accommodate a wide range of “white box” layouts.

Dotted across each elevation are six-foot-deep cantilevered projections that extend the floor plates on alternating levels. Intermediate decks criss-cross the entire façade, shielded from the street by a layer of wooden slats. This screen wall forms a protective veil responding to the amount of traffic driving past the site. By providing a buffer against noise and unwanted visual stimuli, the building is able to face the street instead of turning away like most of the other houses on the strip. 

At the project’s outset, the client expressed a desire for simple wood-frame construction and an uncomplicated building envelope. The “white box” concept arose from the need for a low entry-level price point, as well as flexibility in how the units could be sold and marketed.

The adaptability of plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems is also critical to the success of a white box development. These systems must provide efficient, coherent connection points to limit costs of future extensions and modifications of the system, without restricting layout possibilities. Electrical distribution begins at the main floor in the stairwell wall and diagonally follows the ceiling to each floor connection. The main water supply and all drain lines run vertically within the plumbing walls. This arrangement situates the mechanical areas at the core of the building rather than the more coveted exterior wall areas.

Individuals can take advantage of this flexibility to customize their living situations into a number of dwelling scenarios. The design enables “wet” functions to be developed on any floor, allowing users to inhabit each level any way they choose. 

The architectural challenge was to take an expected, generic typology and create something unexpected–to shake up the white box. The final design uses basic, seemingly standard built elements (stairs, plumbing chases, windows and doors, floors and skin) to create a unique, cohesive whole–regardless of the eventual inhabitations of each unit. 

Bloc_10 is a study in how a box design can be both simple and complex. The standard three-storey walk-up building typology is reimagined, distributing 10 original layouts across and through the site. The stacking and staggering of unit floor plates results in a complex relationship between neighbours. All units have access to full north and south exposures, typically with an additional east or west face, making eight of ten units into three-sided corner suites. The variable layout also provides every tenant a place of refuge from the traffic noise on Grant Avenue.

Jury: This eye-catching block of multi-family housing reworks the familiar typology of the low-rise terrace block to striking effect. Apartments fit together with the pleasing complexity and ingenuity of a Chinese puzzle, offering spatial and experiential variety. Thoughtful consideration of materials gives the scheme an uplifting confidence within its unremarkable suburban context. Handled with sensitivity and flair, this project shows what can be achieved by applying intelligence and imagination to an often disregarded building type. CA

Client Green Seed Development Corporation
Architect Team Sharon Ackerman, Mandy Aldcorn, Ken Borton, Jordy Craddock, Michelle Heath, Aynslee Hurdal, Johanna Hurme, Cristina Ionescu, Grant Labossiere, Jayne Miles, Colin Neufeld, Zach Pauls, Sasa Radulovic, Shannon Wiebe
Structural Lavergne Draward & Associates
Mechanical G.D. Stasynec & Associates Ltd.
Electrical MCW/AGE Consulting Professional Engineers
Builder Green Seed Development Corporation + Holz Constructors Inc.
Area 10,000 ft2
Budget $2 M
Completion October 2011