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5468796 Architecture

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

December 2023


Sasa Radulovic (Partner-in-Charge, Design Architect)


Scatliff Millar Murray (Landscape Architect), Laverge Draward & Associates (Structural Engineer), MCW Consultants Ltd. (Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer & Civil Engineer), Crosier Kilgour (Energy Consultant), GHL Consultants Ltd. (Building Code Consultant


Alston Properties


James Brittain


Two interventions made the project viable: repurposing the capacity of the original gantry crane rails to suspend a ‘floating floor’ above the equipment below; and proposing an ultra-thin residential block on the 40-foot sliver of land between the pumphouse and street. Unlocking these two potentials, along with a larger residential building on the opposite end of the pumphouse, altogether made the project financially feasible and socially meaningful.

In contrast to previous revitalization attempts, the pumping equipment on the ground floor remains clear of complicated programming. A flexible office floor plate is suspended above by maximizing the bearing capacity of the original gantry crane rails. New skylights bring natural light deep into the expansive space and put the machinery on display. All entrances from the ground floor encounter these layers of history before reaching any newly built components, letting heritage form the visitor’s experience.

Elevated on columns extending the gantry crane structural grid are two self-standing, mid-rise residential buildings. The north and south elevations are defined by open-air stairwells, offering vistas to the city, river and park. Open-air egress transforms nondescript interior corridors to vibrant exterior passageways: weaving within & around the buildings, they become an extension of the suites, encouraging a sense of shared ownership over communal spaces — a feat of building code problem-solving. Employing a “skip-stop” configuration, access to suites on every other floor is within the unit itself, significantly increasing efficiency and lowering embodied & operational energy, as well as enabling through-suites with cross ventilation & natural light from two directions.


Slated for demolition after 14 failed attempts to revive Winnipeg’s historic James Avenue Pumping Station, 5468796 developed an unsolicited conceptual design paired with a financial pro-forma and presented the business case to an existing client, connecting them with the City as an owner and eventually leading to the building’s successful preservation through private investment.

The new approach considers the pumphouse a “found object”, using the existing building’s structural properties while proposing an expansive and diverse public realm weaving into the fabric of the Exchange District National Historic Site. The project is composed of two residential blocks flanking the historic pumphouse building repurposed as an office and restaurant.

Each of the residential blocks are carefully offset from the Pumping Station, creating new ‘lanes’ as an extension of the existing urban structure — respecting the original envelope, resonating with the human scale and expanding the ground floor commercial frontages. The massing configuration creates interstitial public corridors on every level, highlighting connections between old and new: barrier-free access points are nestled along pathways between the pumphouse facade and new residential entrances, and within, moments of compression and expansion feature two outdoor amphitheatres, public plazas, and two foot bridges circulating residents between the residential blocks and the heritage building, enabling a variety of entrance conditions and occupancy configurations. The weaving nature of these passageways are a reflection of the winding streets that define the Exchange District. Articulated connections foster community integration, celebrating the latent vitality of this previously abandoned infrastructural project.


This multi-faceted, mixed-use development is the first proposal on the site that has gained the support of the community at large, the neighbouring condominium complexes and the historic buildings committee at the City of Winnipeg.

Focusing on unlocked potential in the preservation of the 100-year-old building facing demolition, rehabilitation was the first step towards creating a sustainable future for the site. Repurposing the gantry lifts structure to support a new floor of flexible office space offers new views onto the machinery below, further enhanced by floor-to-ceiling glazing. Standardized spacing of steel studs and stiffening bars as both glazing and ceiling support cuts the glazing thickness in half, and doesn’t require specialists to install — in turn, speeding up construction, making it more affordable, and reducing its embodied carbon by half. The commercial unit at ground level mirrors this strategy and offers restaurant visitors unique views of the Great Pump Hall.

The residential buildings are made possible through design solutions that fundamentally rethink market-driven multi-family housing efficiency targets, turning the typology inside-out. Promoting pedestrian movement, circulation becomes more than a way to get around: passageways now present a new type of public space, embedding and connecting covered plazas / bleachers and communal ‘balconies’ directly into the walkways, weaving between new and old. Further, the ‘skip-stop’ configuration creates dual-aspect shotgun apartments and democratizes increased daylight and cross ventilation for all suites. Within, 100-year-old Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) is used as the floor / ceiling structure, taking precedent from warehouse construction in the area.

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