RAIC Awards–Emerging Practice

Winnipeg-based studio 5468796 Architecture emerged in 2007 in response to an extremely conservative civic environment, where private developers are largely concerned with the bottom line and unconventional ideas are always measured against safer or cheaper options. The 12-person office recognized early on that creativity must contend with and counteract the perceived norm in order to be realized. Working around a single table, the studio pursues innovative solutions to achieve high architectural value within the modest budgetary constraints typical of their city.

Principals Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic came to Canada from Europe during the mid-1990s (from Finland and former Yugoslavia, respectively), each graduating with a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Manitoba, followed by several years of work in Winnipeg prior to establishing 5468796 Architecture in 2007. Colin Neufeld, a former classmate, joined the firm in 2008. 

5468796 finds fascination in all the design disciplines, and works at all scales, from furnishings to urban fabric. Inventiveness is paramount within the studio, not as a manifestation of individual preference, but rather as a direct response to client, context and program. They spend a great deal of time seeking to understand a project, and thereby define the problem (or rules of engagement) accurately. Instead of conceiving of projects along a line of hard/soft costs, they look at design more holistically, combining fees, profits and construction costs. In doing so, they are able to reallocate funds strategically rather than simply spend them. This way of working necessitates collaboration around the table early in the process, understanding material constraints and potentials, and generating mock-ups to test ideas. Through front-end design they work to integrate all systems, streamlining and incorporating them into the concept. With the support of an invaluable network of local trades, contractors and artisans, they have been able to confront accepted solutions and reinvent standard off-the-shelf methods.

Their obsession with innovation extends to a shared passion for carefully planned residential projects that maximize density without compromising the public environment. As the suburban housing model continues its appropriation of North America, one of their biggest challenges is being able to shift public opinion about how much space we really need to live. They believe that downsizing through design is integral to a sustainable future, and seek ways to create rich spatial experiences with less overall space.

5468796 makes design advocacy an ongoing pursuit through critical practice, professorships at the University of Manitoba, and numerous public engagements. Various members of the office have spoken at universities across Canada–including Ryerson, Dalhousie, Waterloo and Carleton–and have travelled as far as Guadalajara, Mexico to lecture at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. 5468796 was selected by The Architectural League of New York to speak in the 2012 installment of the Emerging Voices lecture series, and that same year Sasa and Johanna travelled to Mexico City to participate in the 13th Annual Arquine Conference. In February 2013, 5468796 was invited by the Royal Institute of British Architects to present its Bloc_10 project. Additionally, the office has been an active participant in establishing and hosting a new monthly event in Winnipeg called On the Boards, which brings together local practitioners for discussion and critique of work in progress.

Migrating Landscapes, Canada’s entry to the Venice Biennale in Architecture in 2012, was curated by 5468796 Architecture and Jae-Sung Chon, who joined together to become the Migrating Landscapes Organizer (MLO). In 2011, MLO launched a national competition, inviting young Canadian architects and designers to create video narratives and architectural scale models of dwellings in response to their personal experiences of migration and immigration. The work was selected by regional juries and displayed at seven exhibitions across the country. Regional winners were then shown at a national exhibition in Winnipeg in the spring of 2012, where 18 winning teams were selected to represent Canada in Venice in an imaginative installation that abstracted the physical, social, economic and political conditions forming Canada’s pluralistic cultural identity.

Jury Comments

5468796 represents the very best of Canadian practices. This firm clearly stands out on the Canadian architectural landscape and is undeniably helping to reshape it. Their work is refreshing and important in its combination of typological daring, visual playfulness and intellectual rigour–all the while thoroughly engaging in the fundamental questions of architecture and urbanism. To have achieved the breadth and quality of work at this stage in their careers–from urban pavilions to low-cost housing to multi-use commercial buildings–is all the more remarkable.

The jury for this award was comprised of Peter Cardew, MRAIC; Eric Haldenby, FRAIC; Marianne McKenna, FRAIC; Anne Cormier, MIRAC; and Lola Sheppard, MRAIC.