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December 21, 2009

Canada’s most important building

Some buildings are useful, others are attractive, occasionally even beautiful. A few might be called interesting. But how many buildings are genuinely important? In Canada, there’s only one that fits the bill – Manitoba Hydro Place. Located in downtown Winnipeg just blocks from the most celebrated corner in the country, Portage and Main, this is the first large office tower in Canada to deal seriously with the complexities of the 21st century.

This is a building that recasts corporate headquarters as a light-filled space shared equally by all employees. Unlike the energy-hog workplaces to which most Canadians are consigned, this one heats, cools and provides fresh air at a fraction of the usual cost. At the same time, it contributes hugely to the urban fabric of a city that has had its troubles.

The starting point is a new understanding of how people and buildings work. The old hierarchical approach meant only bosses got daylight; now it’s available to all. There are the meeting spaces, communal areas large and small furnished with tables and chairs, where employees gather formally and informally to hold meetings and/or eat lunch. Speaking of eating, Hydro decided against a cafeteria to encourage people to eat out, boosting local businesses. And let’s not forget the filtered water available throughout the building; it has eliminated entirely the need for bottled water.

Toronto Star

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