What the #@*& is that? Part 2


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.

Agassiz Ice in Assiniboine Park.

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

Metal masterpiece or shiny steel turds?

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.

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.

Waiting for the Prep H Express

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.

Gasp at the sight of hollow metal bison as they cross the vast prairie landscape.

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.

Seal River Crossing

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.

Seal River Crossing (close-up)

Standing less than 50 yards away from Seal River Crossing is this masterwork by Winnipeg master artist Leo Mol.  Tree Children captures the playfulness and wonder of youth.

Leo Mol's Tree Children

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!

Precious Blood Catholic Church in St Boniface

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.

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7 responses to “What the #@*& is that? Part 2

  1. Yeah, I dunno…Agassiz Ice just doesn’t really evoke glacier to me. Perhaps small tip of iceberg…but it doesn’t come across as a land-scraping, mountain-destroying piece of cold wrath…

    I do like the block stop and the cooky church mind you. Very fun!

    • Thanks Suze! I really don’t think that Assiniboine Park needed that big hunk of metal in a perfectly good piece of parkland. To my eye it really does nothing but distract from the setting.

      On the Block Stop, I just saw that for the first time a couple of weeks ago, damn near snapped my head off turning whilst driving, and that church has always been a favourite of mine. Just think it’s crazy looking!

  2. I am a big fan of art in urban environments – even if sometimes it’s completely misguided. An artist was recently commissioned by a local town to put up some murals.

    O. M. G. They are hideous. People are not pleased.

    • I find the murals here to be outstanding. Perhaps because they are not Government sponsored.

      Some here are contests and shows of local pride.

  3. Bob, you should write for Winnipeg Magazine, if there is such a thing. You seem to know so much and cover it nicely!

    • Aww shucks…… You’re making me blush. But seriously a publisher is looking at some of my photography for use in a book. Cool eh!

  4. I like the Tree Children