‘An architectural jewel’

Places + Spaces brings Winnipeg’s cityscapes to the cinema

A still from Places + Spaces: Winnipeg, a new documentary series exploring local architecture

Places + Spaces: Winnipeg is a series of documentary vignettes that puts the structures, histories and politics of Winnipeg’s built environment on screen.

Throughout its history, Winnipeg has acted as a breeding ground for creativity and innovation, largely due to the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) prestigious Faculty of Architecture.

The Winnipeg cityscape features a combination of early and late modern architecture, as well as more contemporary styles that all meld together to create an eclectic spatial experience. Each building is informed by the political and historical landscape of the time, imbued with a particular way of seeing the world.

Director, co-writer and seasoned local filmmaker Noam Gonick joined the project after discussing the city’s architecture with the show’s producers.

“Winnipeg is an architectural jewel,” he says. “We have a city that is a pallet of eras and schools of architectural thought.”

With Places + Spaces, Gonick has created an opportunity for citizens of Winnipeg to gain intimate knowledge of the processes shaping the city.

“If you grow up in Winnipeg, it’s all normal, and you’re used to it,” he says. “You might not really know why we have all these incredible banking buildings on Main or the greenest corporate highrise (the Manitoba Hydro building) in North America.”

Hayden Mushinski, the series’ host and other co-writer, echoes this sentiment. As a graduate from the U of M’s environmental-design program, Mushinski has spent years studying designs around the globe. He says Places + Spaces showcases the city’s “unique legacy,” as well as the exciting stories that characterize contemporary Winnipeg.

“Winnipeg was and still is a hub for great architecture and innovation,” Mushinski says. “It is an exciting time now. As a 26-year-old, I love living in Winnipeg and telling people about Winnipeg.”

While Gonick and Mushinski are listed as the series’ writers, both draw attention to the many people who worked on the show. Specifically, both praise the work of the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation in assisting with research and writing.

Places + Spaces is Mushinski’s first foray into the film world, a medium he plans to explore further. Both Mushinski and Gonick draw attention to the resonance between film and design that makes Places + Spaces an ideal way to experience the city.

“I’ve always felt like film and architecture were sister arts,” Gonick says. “They are the two mediums that try to create a world. In film and television, it ends up on a screen. In architecture, it ends up in real life around you.”

The continuity between film and architecture allows viewers to be present within the spaces and reflect on the flows of history that brought them there and will eventually take them away.

“It’s important just to be present in what you are doing and where you are,” Mushinski says, “being present and reflecting on the people and hands that build the spaces we are in.”

If the series is picked up for another season, Gonick says he would love to delve even deeper into Winnipeg’s politics and the different political intersections that dot each city corner.

Places + Spaces is currently available on Bell Fibe TV1 and will screen at the Dave Barber Cinematheque on April 28 as part of the Architecture + Design Film Festival.

Published in Volume 77, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 23, 2023)

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