Canadian Architect

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RAIC Awards – Advocate for Architecture

Susan Algie and a small committee of volunteers founded the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation in 1996.

May 1, 2015
by Canadian Architect

susan algie

Susan Algie in the WAF storefront headquarters. Photo by David Firman

For almost two decades and entirely in a voluntary capacity, Susan Algie has engaged the public with the built environment and with the architects and allied professionals that shape it. Focusing on her adopted city of Winnipeg and building on her public service experience as a heritage resources planner, she has directed programs of research and public education delivered by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation (WAF). Algie has conceived, planned and executed initiatives that have had a local impact, provincial significance and national resonance.

Inspired by the example of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Susan and a small committee of volunteers founded WAF in 1996. As a non-profit charitable organization, WAF is “dedicated to advancing the awareness and appreciation of Winnipeg’s built environment through public education.” In recent years, as its full-time volunteer Executive Director, she is responsible for directing and implementing its research and public programs.

The popular Architecture + Design Film Festival is now in its fourth year. Graphic by A+DFF Partners

The popular Architecture + Design Film Festival is now in its fourth year. Graphic by A+DFF Partners

Under Algie’s leadership, WAF has developed and delivered a broad public program connecting people to the built environment through tours, exhibits, lectures, publications, a film series, a website and social media. These activities draw from Winnipeg’s wealth of historic architecture, its distinct architecture of the modern era, and its vibrant contemporary architectural culture.

A QR Code tour currently includes 100 Winnipeg buildings. Photo by B. Bergen for WAF

A QR Code tour currently includes 100 Winnipeg buildings. Photo by B. Bergen for WAF

Winnipeg residents and visitors benefit from a range of guided and self-guided WAF tours on foot, bicycle and bus. Algie has a particular passion for modern architecture, and has edited or co-authored four guidebooks: Broadway Modern, Brutalist Architecture in Winnipeg, and two on the city’s universities. In addition, leveraging current technology, she has established a QR Code tour for smartphone users that highlights key buildings in the city.

A panel from an exhibition curated by Jeffrey Thorsteinson of WAF. Graphics by Burdocks Design Studio

A panel from an exhibition curated by Jeffrey Thorsteinson of WAF. Graphics by Burdocks Design Studio

Algie has directed exhibitions, including Winnipeg Civic Centre, 1964-2014 and University of Manitoba, along with online exhibits on the city’s neighbourhoods, public art, and even local building materials. Since 2012, Algie has curated the Architecture + Film series, a bi-monthly offering of international films, and also collaborates with partners to curate Winnipeg’s annual Architecture + Design Film Festival.

A view of the WAF’s resource-rich website. Graphics by Burdocks Design Studio

A view of the WAF’s resource-rich website. Graphics by Burdocks Design Studio

These various educational initiatives are built upon a long-term research program on Winnipeg architecture, its architects and allied professionals. To date, under Algie’s leadership, WAF has documented over 2,200 buildings and sites in the city of Winnipeg. Documentation of many of these places is available on the Foundation’s extensive website.

Nationally, Algie’s passion for modern architecture led her to co-chair the first pan-Canadian conference on the built heritage of the postwar era. In 2005, “Conserving the Modern in Canada: Buildings, Ensembles and Sites, 1945-1975” was held at Trent University. This seminal conference attracted 100 architects, allied professionals, academics and students to examine the built legacy of the modern era in Canada and its continuity into the future. Subsequently, she co-edited the bilingual proceedings and co-authored a guidebook, Peterborough Modern.

WAF produces publications and merchandise celebrating Modernist and contemporary architecture

WAF produces publications and merchandise celebrating Modernist and contemporary architecture

Algie will soon begin her third decade of volunteer work, editing a monograph and curating an exhibit on the architectural firm of Green Blankstein Russell, while welcoming the public to WAF’s newly established bricks-and-mortar location within Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District. Susan Algie has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate high-calibre and sustained advocacy achievements in connecting the public to architecture and architects.

Jury Comments
Susan is a true advocate of the profession. WAF has quickly established itself as a vibrant force on the Winnipeg architectural scene. It has built a recognizable “brand” through a consistent and high-quality graphic approach and has grasped social media as a way to effectively promote and advocate for Winnipeg architecture.


susan algie
Susan Algie in the WAF storefront headquarters. Photo by David Firman


Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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