Red River College Polytechnic’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae officially opens

Designed by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group, the 100,000-square-foot facility will house a combination of Indigenous and international student spaces.

The new Red River College Polytechnic’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae has officially opened in Winnipeg. Designed by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group, the 100,000 sf facility will house a combination of Indigenous and international student spaces.

The facility unites a repurposed downtown concrete framed heritage building and new construction to create an engaging crossroads in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District. The Centre is also home to long distance teaching equipped classrooms, digital media labs and special events spaces and faculty offices.

Manitou a bi Bii daziigae atrium. Image provided by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group
Photography by Gerry Kopelow

The Centre’s new Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) name, Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, translates to where creator sits (Manitou a bi) and brings light (Bii daziigae). RRC Polytech Elders-in-Residence, Paul Guimond, Okonace (Little Eagle Bone) from Sagkeeng First Nation, and Miss Una Swan, Black Eagle Woman, from Fisher River Cree Nation used their own traditional ceremonial protocols for the naming process as their teachings instruct, given to them by their Elders and Spiritual Guides.

The form of the building interprets the principal features of the district with a strong relationship to ground floor and articulations that acknowledge the scale, band courses and parapet of the heritage building. The form also identifies program areas where a curvature signals the importance of the Roundhouse. The cornice provides sun control, implies a connection to the wider cityscape and provides an opportunity for Indigenous art. 

The facade is made of Kromatix Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) panels that change colour depending on the angle of view and the weather. This concept conceals the solar cells behind nano-coated glass panels.

Manitou a bi Bii daziigae
terraced seating in the agora.
Image provided by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group
Photography by Gerry Kopelow

The heart of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae is the agora, conceived as a place for campus-wide events as well as for group and quiet study. The sky-lit atrium above the agora brings diffuse light to the centre of the plan and as a two-storey space accented with balconies on all four sides, it is a theatre-in-the-round with study spaces on the edges. The design introduces a collaboration zone – a front porch between the classroom and the agora and atrium. This porch can be used by the classrooms, as a breakout room or project room, or independently booked by students for study groups.

The 210-seat  Roundhouse auditorium anchors the west corner of the new building, and features an artwork floor by nêhiyaw/Anishinaabe/British artist KC Adams. 

At roof level, the City Room represents traditional Indigenous teachings and local history. The painting, created by Anishinaabe artist Jackie Traverse, is visible both on the ceiling of this fully glazed space and across the cladding and soffit. It is conceived as an aspirational space at the high point of the Centre.

“Manitou a bi Bii daziigae at RRC Polytechnic is a true milestone: with a flowing design for the agora, celebrates a community of learners and innovators; through dialogue and artistic expression, connects with Indigenous ancestry; and with courageously championed applied research, creates a Canadian first: a beautifully integrated rain-screen wall that creates energy,” says Michael Leckman, Principal, Diamond Schmitt

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