Passing of architect Morley Blankstein announced

Born March 30, 1924 in Winnipeg, architect Morley Blankstein FRAIC, MSA, RCA passed away on June 16, 2015. As an architect, as a founding member of Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna (later part of Number Ten Architectural Group) and as a citizen, Morley had a profound effect on life in Winnipeg. He attended St. John’s Technical High School and began pre-architecture courses at the University of Manitoba in 1941. This study was delayed by his service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Recommencing his education upon his return, Morley received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Manitoba in 1949. His first-year project, a roadside tourist information bureau with a lunch counter, was a glass and steel-framed structure in a Modernist vein. The design was considered to be also one of the best in his class.

Morley is the son of Max Blankstein, a Winnipeg architect who generated abundant and enduring designs in the early years of the city. From 1907 to his death in 1931, the elder Blankstein turned out hundreds of houses, apartments, stables, stores, schools, warehouses and theatres, mainly in the North End. Max’s elder son Cecil was a graduate architect from the University of Manitoba who formed the partnership known as Green Blankstein Russell (GBR) in 1933, a firm that has left its mark on Winnipeg with designs for City Hall, the Winnipeg International Airport, Polo Park Shopping Centre and the Winnipeg General Post Office.

After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree, Morley was able to secure a brief apprenticeship with Consoer Townsend and Associates in Chicago from December 1950 to May 1951. He then returned to Winnipeg to work for his brother’s firm as an associate and senior designer. Here, the projects he worked on included the design of GBR’s offices at 222 Osborne Street North and the Winnipeg General Post Office. Morley registered with the Manitoba Association of Architects on September 18, 1952, shortly after his marriage on July 3rd of that year to Marjorie Rady, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Max Rady, for whom the Rady Centre at the Asper Jewish Community Campus was named; she is also related to the Bronfman family. That fall, Morley undertook the intense one-year Master of Science in Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where he trained under Mies van der Rohe. On his return to Winnipeg, he worked briefly again for GBR before striking out on his own with another young graduate, Isadore (Issie) Coop. The two set up their practice in 1956 and were joined in 1959 by Doug Gillmor and Alan Hanna. In turn, they joined Allan Waisman and Jack Ross in 1964 to form Waisman Ross – Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna, with an office at 10 Donald Street. This address eventually inspired the firm’s new name, Number TEN Architectural Group.

In 1954, Morley won a national competition for a new home for the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. That year he also received an Honourable Mention for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. During this era, Morley also served as a part-time design critic at the University of Manitoba School of Architecture. Another significant project of these early years was a commission for the Nefco Furniture store at 339 Portage Avenue in 1960. In 1962, Morley’s firm won a Canadian Housing Design Council Award for a multiple housing project they designed on the southwest corner of Grant and Centennial. The row houses were handled with sensitivity – respectful of the surrounding community, but an asset “to relieve visual and social monotony.” Other early projects were the design of the Glendale Country Club in Assiniboia (of which Morley became president in 1968) and, notably, the Mendel Art Gallery and Conservatory in Saskatoon, the winner of a national competition. The Mendel is a jewel of a building, visually compelling with its varied roofline and sawtooth skylights.

Morley built his own residence at 95 Waterloo Street in 1956 to house his growing family. A U-shaped structure built around a south-facing garden, this design was perhaps influenced by Morley’s teacher Mies van der Rohe’s courtyard houses of the 1920s. The house’s lines are angular; while there is no applied decoration, the interior maintains a grandeur nevertheless well-suited to comfort. The home was built in two sections, growing from an L-shape to its present configuration with an addition in 1966. Other significant projects in which Morley played a central role as partner in charge of design and production include the City of Winnipeg Transit Garage on Osborne Street, Lions Manor and the Peguis Pavilion in Kildonan Park. In 1985, Morley retired as a partner at Number TEN Architectural Group, though he served as a consultant until 1993.

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