OMS Stage

PROJECT OMS Stage, Winnipeg, Manitoba
ARCHITECT 5468796 Architecture Inc.
PHOTOS 5468796 Architecture Inc.

OMS Stage or “The Cube” is an open-air performance venue situated in Old Market Square, an iconic green space and summer festival hub in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District. In 2009, 5468796 Architecture Inc. won an invited competition with a multi-functional design that throws out the old bandshell concept on the grounds that when a conventional stage is not in use it looks forlorn– especially through the city’s long winters. The first phase of construction was completed in 2010, while work for the second phase was finalized for the 2013 festival season.

A concrete structure enclosed by a flexible metal membrane, The Cube functions as a multipurpose environment. The membrane is composed of 20,000 identical hollow aluminum pieces strung together on aircraft cables through pre-cut holes. The orientation of the pieces alternates, forming a malleable and shimmering curtain–a contemporary take on medieval chainmail that can stand like a wall, be pulled in to reveal the performance space, or function as a light-refracting surface–allowing it to morph into a projection screen, concert venue, shelter or sculptural object. The curtain’s flexibility also allows for acoustical fine tuning. 

When the stage is closed, internal lighting refracts through the mesh so that The Cube softly glows on the outside. An internal projector also enables images to be projected on the front curtain. The membrane’s diamond extrusions capture and refract light and images to their outer surface, creating a unique pixel matrix for artists to appropriate at will. 

An important objective for the project was to provide a secure screen which could be opened and shut for various programming. The challenge was to create a unique meshwork that would be soft enough to drape open and yet rigid enough to provide a solid barrier. Early prototypes used chainmail as a precedent for a flexible yet protective membrane that could form the venue’s envelope. 

A second key goal was to explore the capacity for the membrane to capture images projected upon its surface. Technical constraints were imposed by the distance from the screen to the back wall of the stage (where the projector would be housed), and the fact that images would hit the back screen face, but would be observed when looking towards the stage. Through prototypes, the architects examined the size and number of elements necessary to effectively capture the projected images, as well as the appropriate depth of cells and their ability to maintain image integrity.

To create the screen, single modules were cut from a custom diamond-shaped aluminum extrusion at 45-degree angles, resulting in perfectly square end faces that could be nested together. The modules were then arranged into groups of four, with each module rotated to achieve a randomized appearance. The groups were then repeated to form the full screen. The boxes’ geometry provides flexibility and seamless transitions at the corners when the screen is raised.

By questioning the year-round relevance of the stage program, the team was motivated to develop a constituent part of the program (security, screen and canopy) into a new project feature. The skin thereby transcends its function as shell and takes on the new role of emblem.

Jury A small urban gesture but a large contribution to the city. This building works on many levels: as sculpture, performing stage, folly and meeting place. Its innovative and flexible design allows for constant transformation to accommodate a variety of programs and activities year round. It expands the realm of possibilities associated with a bandstand and is a shining reminder of the architect’s responsibility to animate the public realm. CA

Client Winnipeg Exchange District BIZ | 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, Eva Kiss | Structural Lavergne Draward & Associates | Electrical Williams Engineering Canada Inc. | Lighting Ambiances Lighting + Visual Design | Metal Fabricator Central Prairie Products | Contractor Green Seed Development Corporation | Area 784 ft2 | Budget $1 M | Completion Phase 1–July 2010; Phase 2–July 2013