When I first arrived in Winnipeg in February of 1986, I was instantly fascinated by the idea that a city could exist in a climate that was so profoundly cold. It struck me that the water wasn’t frozen when coming out of the tap and that although the buildings looked as though they were evaporating from the deep freezing temperatures, they were well heated and electricity wasn’t regularly interrupted at all.
Since, I’ve had a fascination with learning about Winnipeg’s robust hydro grid and telecom systems. I gained a respect - and would go as far as to say an admiration - for the hydro sub-stations and variety of other utility buildings scattered all over the city. Taking note of the amount of thought and detail that went into the placement and design of these buildings is also interesting to note. The older buildings in particular are glamorous in an attempt to disguise themselves as churches and other ornate buildings when placed within a populated urban setting. Some of the buildings are from a bygone era of telecom and electricity which are in use today, but not necessarily for housing utility services. Regardless, they all have an aura of importance and are an integral part of the city’s heritage.
When my brother--in--law, Cory Ash, mentioned that he was working on a photographic book which he intended to completely shoot on film and on the topic of Winnipeg’s Utility Buildings, I jumped at the chance to tag along with my digital camera to photograph these fascinating locations. Although his project is far more detailed and will span several seasons I’m excited to share the results of our exploration in this photo essay depicting these unsung heroes of this city’s existence.