62M By Sasa Radulovic Of 5468796 Architecture Ltd. In Winnipeg, Manitoba

I don’t think that Sasa Radulovic of Winnipeg's 5468796 Architecture Ltd could play poker. His voice is his 'tell', it crackled with excitement during our recent phone conversation. He was in his car on the way to a construction site along Winnipeg’s Red River waterfront, an area he calls his ‘playground’.

The intent of the call was for me to interview him. I was planning on probing him with questions about his project entitled 62M - or as my family in Winnipeg calls it, 'The Spaceship' - but somehow along the way, the conversation got bigger, as big and broad as the vast horizon of Canada’s prairies!


Photo credit: 5468796 Architecture


You see, having spent a great deal of time on my grandparent’s farm just outside of the city, I know that Manitoba is ‘big sky country’. The vistas, the sky, and the light can be breathtaking. But I also know that the mosquitoes are as big as hummingbirds and not nearly as benign. And although technically landlocked, the area is so prone to flooding that the city boasts a flood control system called the Red River Floodway, a 47 kilometre (29 mile) channel that regularly prevents serious flooding.

The Manitoba winter is also brutally unkind. Seriously, who wants to live in a place where you can freeze to death in 10 minutes? But the question on my mind as my conversation with Sasa progressed was why would anyone build a building on stilts, where cold could potentially come through the floor, near a river and a highway in a city famous for its biting wind? And more importantly who, in this climate, builds with common spaces literally in the centre of a round building open to the elements? Who thinks like this and why? 



Photo credit: Wikki commons


To understand my initial scepticism, you have to get the visual: 62M is built on an inhospitable spot in an industrial area next to a freeway. Its name comes from its address, 62 MacDonald Ave, Winnipeg. The project’s shape was dictated by the site and the budget says Radulovic, and he maintains that there’s something innately Canadian about this building. Perhaps it is because the goal was to build a residential building that encouraged social interaction. The goal? 5468796 Architecture wanted to build condos that promote getting to know your neighbour by making the entrance/exit to each unit open into ‘open-air’ common space. I asked him if coming up with this 'motel typology' was him being prescient, as now with COVID no-one wants indoor common space. He laughed and admitted that he and his partners have been testing motel-type buildings in Winnipeg and for them, it was originally about social interaction, not social distancing; it was all about what and who you face when you leave your personal space.

The function Sasa was looking for was social as well as cost-effective. He is a believer in form following function tempered with a respect for the often-duelling concepts of fiscal and environmental responsibility. 



Photo credit: 5468796 Architecture


When it came to 62M and its unique shape there were many influences. Sasa says that he and his partners enjoyed their fight with the “stigma of the impossible”. But at the same time, they benefited – and continue to benefit - from the population’s pioneering spirit and naiveté and, he most definitely meant this as a compliment to Winnipeggers!

He said that if you build something in Toronto, no one notices…but in Winnipeg, there is a quick feedback loop with a community that is actually aware. This attitude has had an influence. He stated frankly that he has been changed by Winnipeg and now he lives and designs within the context of the city. He and his partners see themselves as city builders, Winnipeg builders.  Yep, Winnipeg; now a perfect city for a firm of visionaries who think outside the box.

For decades, the city’s architectural claim to fame was a collection of grey public buildings mostly built before 1920. Now the team at 5468796 Architecture is playing in a city with buildings like the Royal Canadian Mint, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. For an architect, this city and the vast Canadian prairie horizons provide motivation and inspiration. But I have derailed, much like my fascinating conversation with Sasa did on more than one occasion!  Let’s get back to 62M. 



Photo credit: 5468796 Architecture


Sasa said that the city and the distinct quality of light in the prairies both play a part in his designs. He feels that all architects are influenced by light and shadow. And, in a spot where he literally had to stretch the building’s ‘legs’ to get a view, I’m sure that reaching for the light and the view was essential to the building’s success. Reaching 40 feet above the base of the Disraeli Freeway, the two-storey collection of 40 pie-shaped suites are built around a central structure - a concrete rectangle. The core rises to the penthouse level with the prefabricated net-zero wedge-shaped condos, each measuring 600 square feet, circling around. The inside of the circle is in fact the ‘exterior’ common space or walkway that connects the condos to the elevator. I told Sasa that it was this open-air centre that triggered my original scepticism. He volleyed back saying that his point of view is that you don’t design for the worst weather, you simply make sure that a building cannot leak and cannot be cold and move on. OK, I get it! 



Photo credit: 5468796 Architecture


The prefabricated units were a key component to the shape, cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency of the project. The architects partnered with Winnipeg’s Holz Custom Prefab whose tag line interestingly is ‘prefab anything anywhere: buildings that look out of this world’. Do you think that Holtz took one look at the ‘spaceship’ they created with Sasa and his partners and decided that this place was a living, breathing marketing tool for their company? Why not, clearly, it worked and the partnership has been fruitful. Sasa says that they continue to work together making new projects even more sustainable and energy-efficient!



Photo credit: 5468796 Architecture


On our call, Sasa mentioned that the firm’s latest project in the waterfront area is the James Avenue Pumping Station. I quickly jumped onto google to have a look. Wow! Wondering if my fascination with Sasa and his partners was perhaps, in part, because of my Winnipeg influenced naiveté I ran across a recent accolade that made me feel my fandom was based on intelligent observation rather than child-like awe. This past spring (2020) Domus Magazine (THE architecture and design magazine, with a pedigree dating back to 1928) named 5468796 Architecture to their 50 Best Architecture Firms list; a list that identifies the world’s most creative emerging architecture practices. So, if my admiration borders on the sycophantic, at least I am in elite company!

For a firm founded only 13 years ago in 2007, Sasa and his partners Johanna Hurme and Colin Neufeld are going places. But, at the same time, they’re staying put, staying in Winnipeg, in Manitoba’s big sky country where they’ll continue to play on the waterfront, capturing light and making shadows. 


Houseporn.ca have been long time fans of this creative firm, including showcasing these other projects:

Webster Cottage In Manitoba By 5468796 Architecture

HEDGE In Winnipeg, Manitoba By 5468796 Architecture

Winnipeg’s Stradbrook Condominiums By 5468796 Architecture

Toronto’s Treehouse Townhomes By 5468796 Architecture

Winnipeg’s OZ Condominiums By 5468796 Architecture

Winnipeg’s Centre Village By 5468796 Architecture

Winnipeg’s Parallelogram House By 5468796 Architecture


For more on Sasa, visit 5468796 Architecture Ltd

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Did you enjoy this article? Houseporn.ca offers other stories featuring interestingly shaped buildings, including:  

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Two Hulls House By MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, Nova Scotia

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High House By Delordinaire In Quebec City, Quebec

Meadow House In Caledon, Ontario By Ian MacDonald Architects


Theresa Kowall-Shipp is a TV producer, director and writer. Her interest in design and architecture grew from exposure to her family’s construction and architectural woodworking firm and producing or directing dozens of hours of design TV. 

Posted In: Manitoba

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