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Issue No. 184 | November 14, 2011

1. Heritage Toronto launches new iTour of Islington Village
Downloadable audio and visual walking tours explore Toronto's history

Heritage Toronto is pleased to release the fourth iTour in its series which explores Islington Village, located in central Etobicoke. The iTour will be presented to the public for the first time on Tuesday, November 8th at Montgomery's Inn, 4709 Dundas Street West (at Islington).

Supported by the RBC Foundation, iTours are visual and audio tours that are a convenient way to explore Torontos heritage, and visit areas of the city that are difficult to navigate with larger groups of people. iTours feature archival photographs, taking viewers on a photographic journey of the people, places and events that have shaped Toronto, and commentary from those who have shaped the neighbourhoods profiled.

The Islington Village iTour presents a microcosm of the changing patterns of urban development, right up to the present. Over the last two centuries, a number of waves of population growth have transformed this place, and left their mark. The main street has changed from a well spaced out collection of homes, churches, stores, hotels, and the municipal offices, to a completely built up, late-twentieth century commercial street.

iTours - including previous iTours of Spadina Avenue, Don Mills and the Toronto Island - are available for viewing and downloading to MP3 devices on Heritage Torontos website (http://www.heritagetoronto.org/discover-toronto/itours).

The iTours program has been generously supported by the RBC Foundation through a gift of $20,000.

For more information about Heritage Toronto iTours, please visit www.heritagetoronto.org.

Editor's Note:
These are great tours to look at, I used the one for Don Mills as part of a presentation I did last week.


2. Sign Petition to Protect Toronto City Museums

Hi friends & colleagues,

According to reports in the Toronto Star, City Hall is threatening / planning to close down four of ten City Museums: David Gibson House, the Market Gallery, Montgomery’s Inn, and Zion Schoolhouse. Please sign this petition and rally all your friends to do the same.

 

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:Please make your views known.....it is amazing that closing four museums only yields 1M.


3. Toronto Star: Museum Closures Imminent
Christopher Hume

City museum closures loom

In a city consumed by the cost of things, it’s easy to lose sight of the value of things.

Torontonians will be reminded of the difference later this month when Mayor Rob Ford unveils the city budget.

Among the measures included will be the closure of four of the city’s 10 museums. Sources tell the Star that those chosen to be shut are the Market Gallery, Gibson House, Montgomery’s Inn and Zion Schoolhouse.

The justification will be the nearly $1 million in savings, a tiny fraction of a city budget that in 2010 stood at $9.2 billion.

For thousands of residents who visit and use these facilities, the impact will be more about the quality of their lives than the depth of their pockets.

The 10 museums operated by the City of Toronto Culture Division cost taxpayers about $5.3 million yearly. The institutions themselves raise $1.3 million through rentals, admissions and gift shop sales.

Annual attendance is about 250,000.

Except for the Market Gallery, located downtown in the St. Lawrence Market, the venues slated for closure are in the former North York and Etobicoke.

Montgomery’s Inn has been a landmark in Etobicoke since the 1840s, when the current building was constructed. It is one of the former borough’s few surviving links to its past.

Zion Schoolhouse, which was built just two years after Confederation, remained in service until 1955. The modest but elegant structure on Finch St. E. was built by families in what was then the farming community of L’Amoreaux.

Gibson House, an impressive 1850s Georgian mansion west of Yonge St., north of Park Home Ave., is also in the former North York.

Though shuttering these attractions is unlikely to stir up the same sort of outrage as did Ford’s threats to close Toronto public libraries, it will inflict further damage on a sector already under pressure.

“Heritage is not gravy,” insists Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21). “These museums are local community hubs. . . the unsung gems of our city. They offer vigorous programs for school kids. But this administration has made it clear it wants some very, very deep cuts to arts and heritage.”

As Mihevc also points out, the city has no plans yet about what to do with these historic buildings once they’re closed. Unless they are to be abandoned and left to fall apart, they will have to be sold to the private sector or maintained by the city, which costs money.

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4. Globe and Mail: Closure Toronto Museums
Patrick White

City museums at risk, despite denials, Mihevc says

A Toronto councillor is forging ahead with a campaign to rescue four city museums from being closed despite avowals from fellow politicians that no such threat exists.

Dozens of residents joined Councillor Joe Mihevc at Montgomery’s Inn Museum in Etobicoke on Sunday, one of the sites the city hall veteran says will be shuttered under a secret cost-cutting plan currently making the rounds among city staff.

“Heritage is not gravy,” said Mr. Mihevc, to a chorus of cheers. “This ill-advised move must be stopped.”

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5. Globe and Mail: Review of Tall Buildings Panel Discussion this week
Tamara Baluja

The down side of a city that just keeps growing up

Some might see quaint and charming, but when Richard Witt looks at his old-fashioned High Park home, he sees red.

“I hate the poorly constructed, outdated house that I live in that constantly needs to be fixed,” he said. Mr. Witt, an architect with Raw Architects and Designers, would like nothing more than to move back into a loft apartment from his pre-marriage days. Call it a common architect’s dilemma: Peter Clewes, an architect with architectsAlliance, lives in a 20th-century Beaches home, but longs for a downtown condo in one of the sleekly modern buildings that he likes to design.

“The problem,” he says, “is that the downtown core, where a lot of tall buildings are being constructed, is not an area I would want to live in. It is not an issue of height and density, but of neighbourhood quality.”

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Editor's Note:Clewes comment is telling....the towers that are going up, many of his design, are erasing so much of the fine grain main streetscape that attracts people to our traditional neighbourhoods. I walked up Bay Street last week and was reminded just how awful most of the retail is that occupies the ground floors of condos...its a question of rental costs for new buildings, and a pretty serious issue that is not being addressed in our Official Plan....nows our chance to do something about that.


6. Fife and Drum: Strachan House originally John B. Smith Lumber Company
Kevin Plummer

Garrison Common History: The John B. Smith Lumber Company

It was painted more than a century ago. But the advertisement for John B. Smith & Sons on the south side of the building at Strachan Avenue and Wellington perseveres. The fading paint adorns what was once a planing mill in one of the city’s largest lumber yards, and stands now among a handful of remnants attesting to the King-Strachan neighbourhood’s industrial heritage.

Neighboured by Massey-Harris, other factories and meat packers, John B. Smith & Sons spent the final 79 of their 116-year existence at this location. Their yards at Callander, near North Bay, stayed open a few years longer.
Born in Scotland, John Bizzet Smith emigrated to Canada in 1850. After a brief stint in Brantford, he relocated to Toronto where he established a grocery business on Yonge Street opposite Shuter. In Scotland, Smith had been a shipbuilder and supervised construction of a railway bridge over the Bannockburn River. It was natural, then, that he added a small lumber yard behind his grocery store. Before long, to promote his yard, Smith was taking work as a contractor. He formed Smith, Burke & Co. with William Burke–the father of Edmund Burke, later a famed architect. Smith, Burke & Co. were building contractors for the Crystal Palace (1858)—the iron and glass structure that housed the Provincial Exhibition for many years—and supplied the timber-work for Gooderham’s distillery (1859).

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7. Now Magazine: Fort York Bridge is Back on the Table
Ben Spurr

Fort York Bridge, take two

One of three alternative designs

COUNCILLORS UNITE TO REVIVE FORT YORK BRIDGE, BUT MEETING SOURED BY LAST MINUTE MOTION THREATENING HOMELESS SHELTER

It turns out rumours of the Fort York Bridge’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

At a public works committee meeting Thursday, plans to span the rail lines north of the historic fort with a pedestrian and cycle bridge were revived, only eight months after they were all but killed off in a controversial vote spearheaded by Rob Ford’s allies on council.

At the time, Fordist councillors said the bridge, already approved by the previous council, was too expensive and cheaper alternatives needed to be found. Many believed that there was no will under Mayor Ford to complete the project, and accused the new administration of a lack of city-planning vision.

But it turns out the hunt for cheaper alternatives was genuine. On Thursday, staff tabled a report that presents three alternative, less expensive designs for the bridge, with many elements similar to the original award-winning design that was nixed in the spring.

The alternative designs will cost somewhere between $18 and 19.7 million, down at least $6.6 million from the projected cost of the old design. They all retain a similar “inclined arch” shape described in the original plan, but essentially split it in two by spanning the middle section with a mound of earth called a berm. The original design called for a single, long span.

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Editor's Note:John Strachan House threatened by interest at City in selling off property in this area...


8. T.O. Blog: Unbuilt Toronto II is out!
Derek Flack

Unbuilt Toronto gets a worthy sequel

Although it'd get some steep competition from the Historical Atlas of Toronto, Mark Osbaldeston's Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been is probably the most fascinating book about this city to be released in the last 10 years. It's one of those texts that I've had occasion to refer to more times than I can remember. As a history of projects that never came to fruition, it offers rare and fascinating insight into the various decisions and political processes that have determined the shape of our city — for better and worse.

Covering a wide range of ill-fated and modified plans — from Buckminster Fuller's dramatic Toronto Project to the Queen Street subway to a version of Eaton Centre that would have resulted in the loss of Old City Hall — Unbuilt Toronto covers a lot of territory. So the first question that popped into my mind when I heard a sequel was on the way was whether or not there would be enough major material to complement Osbaldeston's first effort. There must be thousands of unbuilt projects in a city's history, but how many of them are worth dredging up to write about?

As it turns out, a lot.

Unbuilt Toronto 2 is a treasure trove of lost projects that's every bit the rival of its predecessor. In fact, one could make the argument that it's even a tad more interesting on account of some of the lesser-known projects and plans that it sheds light on. Most know the story of the Spadina Expressway, for instance, but what about the Scarborough Expressway, a planned highway that would have linked the Gardiner and 401 via an east-end ravine and various residential areas?

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9. Hamilton Spectator: Review SLEEK 2
Mark McNeill

Just call them sleek: Mid-century design is being celebrated as an architectural heritage

They speckle Hamiltons residential landscape like time capsules from the 1950s and 60s, sleek architectural showpieces left behind by prosperous mavericks who fiercely rejected cookie cutter design.

The city has about 50 to 100 examples of Mid-Century Modern architecture, one-of-a-kind houses commissioned by lawyers, doctors and other professionals caught up in the breezes of postwar optimism. They are notable for using industrial materials in open, integrated spaces with little or no ornamentation.

They are places where you would be perfectly at home sipping a martini or smoking a pipe.

The style is not for everyone but Graham Crawford, owner of Hamilton HIStory and HERitage on James Street North, feels we should take a closer look because mid-century modern is the new heritage. This is the stuff a lot of people dont think of yet as heritage buildings. But they are.

We have a lot of very good Mid-Century Modern architecture. It speaks to what Hamilton was like in the 50s and 60s. There was money. There was culture. People were commissioning architects to build special houses. They didnt want something from a book.

On Friday, as part of the James Street North Art Crawl, he will launch a multimedia presentation, a book and a calendar called Sleek, Hamiltons Modernist Residential Architecture.

Mid-Century Modern was the inspiration behind City Hall in 1959, but Crawford wanted to focus on houses, rather than government, industrial or commercial buildings.

He enlisted the help of retired architect Anthony Butler, and they went on a quest to find as many as they could. The effort first produced Sleek 1, a multimedia celebration of six homes at H and H last year. Five were designed by architects Trevor Garwood-Jones and Stanley Roscoe and used as their personal residences.

Another six houses are featured in this years multimedia show and the entire collection of 12 houses is featured in the new book and calendar.

The houses were all built between 1950 and 1975 and are still standing. Many more have been lost because new owners liked the land more than the house and bulldozed them to make way for monster houses.

I think there is a lack of recognition for good architecture from the 50s, 60s and 70s, says Butler, who designed the police station, Central Public Library and the original buildings of Mohawk College.

People are tearing down perfectly good houses with much better design than what they are replacing them with. It is a sad situation.

I think they (Mid-Century Modern houses in Hamilton) were good architecture and still are very good architecture and therefore deserve to be recognized and respected.

Crawford says they are elegant, not quirky.

You have to like straight lines, lots of glass and you need to like rooms that are interconnected, not just through a doorway.

He says the style is also fascinating because it happened at a time when Hamilton was prosperous and people were optimistic about the future.

It was a mirror on the times. The fact Hamilton had so many that are really good examples, speaks to the way Hamilton was back then.


SLEEK

What: A multimedia presentation, and book and calendar launch

When: Friday, Nov. 11, 7 to 11 p.m. as part of the James Street Art Crawl

Where: Hamilton HIStory and HERitage, 165 James St. N.

Who: Graham Crawford with Anthony Butler and Jeff Tessier

Online: www.historicalhamilton.com/history-and-heritage/

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10. Globe and Mail: SLEEK 2
Dave LeBlanc

Hamilton shows off its modernist cred

An undulating wooden screen provides a backdrop for sexy Barcelona chairs; a city skyline lies at the feet of a lush suburban lawn; clerestory windows perform a trompe loeil to "float" a second storey; an architects Mondrian-inspired wall mural lies undisturbed for 45 years; intersecting light and dark walls perform a symphony of angles; and a wide deck encircles a long post-and-beam home.

Sexy and sophisticated images all & and all from the amalgamated City of Hamilton. If you thought Steeltown was sleek before, wait until you get an eyeful of the six architect-designed homes featured in SLEEK 2.

Opening at the small but mighty HIStory + HERitage storefront museum at 165 James St. N. is the sequel to last years exhibit, SLEEK: Hamiltons Modernist Residential Architecture, which was so successful it took curator/owner Graham Crawford, 57, by surprise: I had people from London, Ont., Windsor, St. Catharines, Buffalo, and of course Toronto, he says. Lots of architects, lots of people just interested in mid-century modern  it was very, very popular.

It was also unique: Six video screens, hung at eye-level, looped virtual house tours of each house, all set to a cool jazz soundtrack. Rather than walk a shaky hand-held motion camera through the spaces, Mr. Crawford chose instead to pan-and-scan still photographs: Im basically employing the Ken Burns effect, he says with a chuckle. The pace of the videos is purposely slower than you might normally expect because I want people to linger over details.

It was so linger-licious, the same technique is being employed for this years six stars  built between 1959 and 1972  with support via additional photography by Jeff Tessier and newly drawn floor plans courtesy of Javier Guardia mounted to gallery walls.

As before, award-winning Hamilton-based Modernist architect Anthony Butler (retired) has done all research, which, not surprisingly, is thorough, insightful and offers anecdotal tidbits via on-screen text. For instance, its during the video tour of the 1966 escarpment home built for Dr. John Fawcett that viewers learn the architect, Trevor Garwood-Jones, was responsible for the Mondrian mural in the foyer, and that the houses striking barrel-vault roof was manufactured off-site and delivered and installed in one piece. Viewers get to walk through a private courtyard, open the door and then look out of the thin Italianate arched window from the good doctors study.

Also on the escarpment is Joseph Bogdans 1963 Ranalli house with its incredible exterior massing and interplay of long vertical windows and mid-section clerestories; a walk inside shows how those long embrasure-like windows frame and light a floating, sculptural staircase.

Interestingly, there are houses by a father and a son. John Douglas Kyles, the father, designed the oldest house in the exhibit, a 1959 Y-shaped rancher for Dr. Dingwall on Hamiltons west mountain. Not only does it have a commanding view of Hamiltons skyline, on a clear day you can see the Toronto skyline as well. The exhibits youngest house, by son Lloyd, is the 1972 Hammond house, a rancher near the border of Dundas and Ancaster with a wraparound deck and a massive chimney piecing the low-slung roof.

Also on offer is a residence by SLEEK researcher Anthony Butler, the tall and lanky 1969 Garnett residence on a 22-acre site near Dundas, with fenestration and floor levels to thrill, and a 1964 home for Hamiltons then City Clerk, Mr. Simpson, by Hamilton City Hall architect Stanley Roscoe with a gorgeous wooden screen to separate foyer from living room.

Refreshingly, each video eschews shelter magazine clinicalness to present the homes as they really are: Im not interested in shooting a stage set, explains Mr. Crawford. It also communicates that people really do live in these things in a very normal way, so whether thats magazines around or comfortable chairs&or whatever. In other words, Mr. Crawford is doing his bit to dispel the myth that Modernist architecture is cold and inhabited exclusively by intellectual aesthetes wearing complicated eyeglasses.

It helps, too, that HIStory + HERitage is a welcoming and cozy place that invites people of all stripes through its doors. I want everybody to come in, affirms Mr. Crawford. I didnt do this show for architects; on the other hand it doesnt offend architects when they come in. This is good, since rather than preaching to the choir, whats needed in this age of teardowns is a way to make Modernism approachable to townhouse-dwelling blue collar workers and bankers in Georgian mansions alike.

But can a gallery show really change minds? I know that I did because people said so, answers Mr. Crawford matter-of-factly. Theyd driven past houses like these  or in fact these houses and I think helping them [virtually] go inside and see the volumes and the light and the interconnectivity of the rooms & people got a sense that it was rich heritage.

For the converted who wish to take the experience home, H+H is selling calendars and a tidy little booklet (that features houses from both exhibits) for $15 each.

And if thats still not enough, theres always next November: We could easily do a SLEEK 3 and a SLEEK 4; there are so many other high quality mid-century modern homes still to do.

SLEEK 2 opens in Hamilton at 165 James St. N. on Friday Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. and runs until Feb. 10, 2012. For more information, visit historyandheritage.ca. Admission is free.

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11. Daily Commercial News and Construction Record; Hamilton, Ontario a heritage redevelopment treasure

MICHAEL FESWICK. Treble Hall is a three-wythe brick structure with a wood-framed interior. More than 40 original pine doors and frames were among the historical features rescued in it.

If buying an old building to redevelop is your thing but big bucks separate you from the Toronto market, consider heading down the QEW to Hamilton, Ont. There is plenty of building stock for sale downtown and it is often going for rock-bottom prices.

Take a 16,000-square-foot 132-year-old architectural gem on a downtown main street in the steel city as an example. The Renaissance Revival style four-storey commercial building (in sound structural shape) and an adjoining pre-Confederation building sold for less than $750,000.

Burlington-based Historia Building Restoration Inc. purchased the two, Treble Hall and the Pagoda Building, with big renovation plans for performance and art space.

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12. Globe and Mail: Development in Conflict with National Historic Site
Renata D'Alesio

Parks Canada weighs whether to let pipeline run through historic burial site

Parks Canada is weighing whether to allow an energy company to expand natural gas operations at a national historic site and burial ground in western Alberta, where fur trading once thrived and explorers gathered to seek passage to the Pacific Ocean.

The Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is home to remnants of four fur-trading posts established between 1799 and 1875 by rival traders, the Hudson Bay Company and North West Company. How many bodies are buried in the area is not exactly known, but petroleum-related construction in 1969 led to the discovery of 14 people in a dozen graves – a finding that spurred stronger archaeological and cultural protection.

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13. Globe and Mail: Mount Allison War Memorial Demolition
Michael Posner

Razing of war memorial sparks outrage

It will seem like some sort of perverse irony.

As it has for nine decades, Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., will mark Remembrance Day next Friday with a solemn public ritual, reciting the names of alumni who gave their lives in Canadian wars. The ceremony will take place at the Wallace McCain Student Centre.


For undergrads at Canada’s universities, a new way of learning
Simultaneously, however, just 500 metres away, work crews have been busy dismantling a handsome stone building built expressly – in 1927 – as a memorial to 73 former Mount Allison students who died in the First World War. It was largely paid for by families and friends of the dead students.

The structure, commonly known as the Memorial Library, is included in the National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials.

The Mount Allison board of regents decided last year to raze it, in order to construct a 50,000-square-foot, $30-million fine and performing arts centre.

The ensuing controversy has riven the tiny Maritime community. The administration insists the 84-year-old building, designed by architect Andrew Randall Cobb, is too costly to save, and stands on the campus’s most logical site for a badly needed new arts centre.

A functioning library until 1970, it served as a student centre and campus pub until 2008, but has been largely unoccupied since then, and allowed to deteriorate.

The decision has outraged many alumni, as well as Canadian war veterans, and a community of architects and heritage building activists.

One alumnus, John Gray (class of ’68), calls its demolition “the greatest blunder in Mount Allison’s history.”

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Editor's Note:We must be able to do better than this as a country. Surely, this is a project tailor made for the Conservative Government's interest in preserving Canada's war history. Can you imagine if you were a descendent of either the families who built this or one of those it commemorates. It's destruction is tantamount to vandalism in a cemetery. There was an image of the Diamond Schmitt proposal in the print edition of the Globe, but I have been unable to find an image online to share with readers.


14. Wall Street Journal: The Empire State Building's Luster
ADA LOUISE HUXTABLE

The upgrading program was announced in 2007, and more than $550 million has been spent on retrofitting and restoration between 2009 and the present

When the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell in 2001, it seemed like the end of the race for the sky. It was inconceivable that anyone would want to build, or inhabit, such a conspicuous terrorist target again.

But history is rich in ironies; if the age of the skyscraper was over, it was only because the age of the superskyscraper had already begun. Advances in structural engineering, materials and technology, global financial shifts and the timeless incentives of ego and profit have created gigantic towers that are shattering all previous records for size. They are changing skylines and lives around the world.

I, for one, am not in thrall to size; build very big and you can build very bad—and the very bad will be inescapable. I always felt that the twin towers disrupted New York's scale and skyline without compensating grace. They were more a sign of the Port Authority's zealous desire to enter the city's high-stakes real-estate game—while overreaching its transportation mandate—than an indicator of New York's greatness.

If they symbolized anything, it was the personal ambition of the Port Authority's then-director, Austin J. Tobin, to construct the world's tallest buildings, something he was free to do because the Port Authority's independent status allowed it to override the city's zoning, code and height regulations. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, whose forte was delicacy on a small scale, the result was the world's daintiest, most characterless big buildings until disaster restored the city's more familiar skyline. Symbolism was conferred on them posthumously by death and destruction.

So where does the Empire State Building fit in the age of the superskyscraper? The record today is held by Dubai's Burj Khalifa, at more than twice the Empire State Building's 1,250 feet—a height almost as nostalgic as its dirigible mooring mast. Eighty years old, the Empire State Building is a city and national landmark. In New York's class-conscious office market, where buildings are graded from A to C, it was subjected to minimum maintenance and disfiguring "modernizations" by a series of owners, to the point where agents stopped bringing clients to its outmoded offices. But it never lost its popular appeal. Souvenir models continue to sell, and when a King Kong remake in 1976 was transferred to the taller World Trade Center, the film was as flat as the tops of the towers. It remains an iconic image for many New Yorkers and for much of the world.

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15. Winnipeg Free Press: Future of Winnipeg Airport
Brent Bellamy

Old terminal a Modernist gem

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES. The city airport terminal opened in 1964 (above) is one of the finest pieces of Modernist architecture in Canada. It adds to the richness of Winnipegs architectural history.

The city airport terminal opened in 1964 (above) is one of the finest pieces of Modernist architecture in Canada. It adds to the richness of Winnipegs architectural history, as shown in the downtown buildings below. So should the old airport terminal be torn down or preserved?

It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase "as pretty as an airport" appear -- Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, might have felt differently about airports had he seen the new Richardson International Airport terminal that on Sunday welcomed its first visitors.

The new airport stands as an impressive welcome mat for our city, a symbol of modernity and progress. Its dramatic curving glass walls anchor the building to the prairie horizon and celebrate in a single sweeping view the light and landscape that define our province. It has space, colour and light in proportions that stimulate the visitor and inspire a feeling of pride.

That last sentence, although an appropriate description of the new building, was actually written in the Winnipeg Tribune in 1964 for the opening of the terminal it is replacing. The completion of the new airport has focused public attention on the fate of its familiar old neighbour, celebrated as one of the finest pieces of Modernist architecture in Canada.

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