Main Terminal Building of the Former Winnipeg International Airport

“Transport Canada has submitted the Main Terminal Building of the former Winnipeg International Airport, now named the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport to the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO) for formal evaluation because the Winnipeg Airport Authority (WAA) proposes to demolish the main terminal with the intention of completing a new facility."(1)

The Department of Transport (DOT) created a terminal building program across the country in the 1950’s and 60’s to improve safety and reflect Canadians growing self-awareness and confidence. It saw 8 large-scale modernist air terminals built by prominent Canadian architects. The terminals integrated Canadian artworks and were furnished with Canadian designed furniture. The program captured the federal governments support due to its intention of introducing passengers to a new image of modern Canada from the moment they entered the terminal building.

Winnipeg’s most prominent post-war [architectural] firm, Green, Blackstein and Russell (GBR) designed the Main Terminal Building in Winnipeg for DOT between 1961-64, during the boom time period of Winnipeg’s Post-war growth. A major renovation was done in 1984-86 by IKOY architectural partnership, which remained sensitive to the original design while altering interior spaces and circulation patterns.

The modernist aesthetic and adaptability of the Main Terminal Building is a result of its simplistic form and function design found throughout its materials and layout. The Mies van der Rohe inspired design of the terminal took David Thordarson and Bernard Brown (the principle designers from GBR) nearly 3 years to complete. The terminal building is a powerful interior space rooted in local materials. It became a type of regional expression “[symbolizing] the aspirations and cultural production of Canada in the post-Second World War era”(6).

The key architectural features include:

  • Large open mezzanine lobby area with a recessed open upper floor
  • Suspended interlocking light panels which stretch across the width of the building
  • Double steel columns between each bay of glazed curtain wall stretching from floor to above the dropped light panels
  • Use of tyndall-stone cladding the interior columns, end walls, back walls and upper band of the southern wall.

    Sources: Waldron, A. Air Terminal Building: James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. Historical Services Branch. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office

    For Current Issues regarding the Main Terminal Building please consult the WAA website.
    The James Armstrong Richardson International Airport made Heritage Canada's Top Ten Endangered Places List of 2008.

     
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