Lavergne Draward & Associates Inc. (structural engineer), Williams Engineering Canada Inc. (electrical engineer), Green Seed Development Corporation [Mark Penner] (contractor), KlarTech Inc. [Melvin Kleinsasser] (metal fabricator), Ambiances Lighting + Visual Design [Martin Gagnon] (lighting design)
John Kiernan (City of Winnipeg)
Our primary design objective was to develop a stage that has presence, personality and year-round relevance. To do this, we expanded the venue’s program to be as multi-functional as possible, making it active for 365 days a year. The stage consists of a cast-in-place concrete shell enclosed by a malleable and shimmering aluminum curtain - a contemporary take on medieval chain mail that can stand like a wall, be pulled in to reveal the performance space, or function as a light-refracting surface - allowing it to morph into a projection screen, concert venue, shelter or sculptural object. The curtain’s flexibility also allows for acoustical fine tuning. An important objective for the project was to provide a secure screen which could be opened and shut for various programming. The challenge was to create a unique meshwork that would be soft enough to drape open and rigid enough to provide a solid barrier. A second key goal was to ensure that the membrane could capture images projected upon its surface. The membrane is composed of 20,000 identical hollow aluminum pieces strung together on aircraft cables through pre-cut holes. When the stage is closed, internal lighting refracts through the mesh so that the The Cube softly glows on the outside. An internal projector also enables images to be projected on the front curtain. The membrane's diamond extrusions capture and refract light and images to their outer surface, creating a unique pixel matrix for artists to appropriate at will.
OMS Stage (“The Cube”) is an open-air performance venue situated in Old Market Square, an iconic green space and summer festival hub in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District. In 2009, 5468796 won an invited competition with a multi-functional design that throws out the old bandshell concept on the grounds that when a conventional stage is not in use it looks forlorn – especially through the city's long winters. Old Market Square is a triangular park defined by the historic warehouses that look onto it. The presence of this strong building edge gives the site an urban character unparalleled by any other public green space in Winnipeg. Following the establishment of a Master Plan for OMS by landscape architects Scatliff+Miller+Murray Inc., it was determined that a new stage to replace the existing 1970s structure was a necessary next step in the park’s redevelopment. Instead of merely replacing the old stage, the new stage transcends the typical performance venue and creates a full sensory experience. The Cube’s flexibility allows it to change its nature from a venue for a rave party to a quiet neighbourhood park pavilion, from vibrant and loud to shimmering and calm.
To create the screen, single modules were cut from a custom, diamond-shaped aluminum extrusion at 45º angles, resulting in perfectly square end faces that could be nested together. The modules were then arranged into groups of four, with each module rotated to achieve a randomized appearance. The groups were then repeated to form the full screen. The boxes’ geometry provides flexibility and seamless transitions at the corners when the screen is raised. By questioning the year-round relevance of the stage, the team was motivated to develop a constituent part of the program (security, screen and canopy) into a new feature. The skin thereby transcends its function as shell and takes on the new role of emblem. The Cube has undoubtably become one of the most talked-about new spaces in Winnipeg. It has generated endless debate locally, and garnered national and international attention through numerous awards and publications. This year, it is already booked for 75 days. In 2011, OMS Stage received an Award of Excellence by the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. The jury said: “The Cube is a brilliant work of architectural art ... and a testament of what can happen when various parties with varying backgrounds can collaborate together” and “This is outstanding poetic innovation, pure and simple. Architects of the “Renaissance” were responsible for choreographing festivals and religious events. This little gem restores the architects’ role within rituals of daily life in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is no small feat!”