It’s been a while since I have posted anything on the wonderful and often weird architecture that dots the Winnipeg landscape. In this offering let us explore some of Winnipeg’s parks and the downtown area for some truly bizarre offerings.
First on our neck snapping trip through town lets take a peek in Assiniboine Park just south of Portage Avenue. This metal monstrosity entitled Agassiz Ice sits like a shiny metal turd polluting the once clean vista of inviting grass and sunny blue sky. I’ll let sculptor Gordon Reeve tell you what he thinks of it.
The sculpture “opens” just as a film does with an establishing shot of the park with the sculpture in the distance framed by the sky, trees and a river. As the viewer approaches along a predetermined route it appears to grow in size and what appeared to be a single sculpture becomes two and then three separate forms with a passage through. The hard irregular edges isolate a rapid succession of “cinematic frames” which are experienced in varying increments of time. The initial approach takes from twelve to thirty seconds before a significant change in point of view. Another ten to twelve seconds and as the piece is revealed the viewer is able to see and feel the cool polished metal.” Gordon Reeve
Poppycock, there is no predetermined pathway to this gauche monstrosity and it takes a good hour to get stink of artistic failure off of you in the shower before you feel clean again. What a waste of metal and money.
Our next entry is as confusing as it is functional. Waiting for a bus in downtown Winnipeg? Afraid of being assaulted or robbed by one of our many gangs of roaming youth? Fear not able pedestrian for you can take shelter in the Winnipeg Block Stop.
Not only does this unique 16,000 pound block of Manitoba tyndall stone sitting on edge make a magnificent conversation piece it also serves as a readily available hard corner for bashing in skulls on our cold Winnipeg evenings.
It does however serve a useful purpose on those cold nights as a simulator of our local economy via increased sales of hemorrhoidal cream. Giving the elderly citizens of Winnipeg thousand pound stone blocks to sit on in an open bus shack verges on cruel and unusual, even for our out of touch city leaders who sit in council.
This next stop in our tour of the weird and wonderful takes us to the William Clement Parkway where we can see a perfectly natural looking herd of hollow metal bison emerging from a river crossing while on migration. The plains bison, symbol of Manitoba, were nearly hunted to extinction by European settlers.
To be fair though, this decorative display is more efficient and aesthetic than some of the crap that we the taxpaying public tolerate. The bison is the symbol of Manitoba after all and it looks like these were hastily made in some Government workshop.
While we are on the subject of migrating animals lets take a look at a privately funded work that actually makes sense. Seal River Crossing found at the foot of the Richardson Building in the heart of Portage and Main is what public art should look like.
This display of sheer determination and raw power fits perfectly with the Richardson and Sons company’s 150th anniversary for which Seal River Crossing was commissioned. Peter Sawatzky’s bronze work comes alive up close as the river froths and boils as the massive herd crosses the cold and deep river. It serves as a comparison to the Canadian business landscape which is also fraught with peril and unknown dangers.
Our last entry takes us to holy ground to St Boniface and the corkscrew church. This wonderfully weird building serves as the spiritual home to many of St Boniface’s French-speaking Roman Catholics. Église Précieux Sang or Precious Blood Church also runs a catholic high school that sits across the street. Built in 1967 on a design by Franco-Manitoban architect Étienne Gaboury this curious building is easily one of Winnipeg’s most unique structures. One thing I know is that you would never catch me on a crew shingling that roof!
Well folks that’s it for today’s tour of the weird and wacky in Winnipeg. As always if you have any strange architecture or public art in your home town send it on over to me. If I get enough I will run an international edition of what the #@*& is that.