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New book explores legacy of architecture firm behind iconic Winnipeg buildings and neighbourhoods

January 9, 2018 — 

As CBC reports: 

We pass by the buildings each day — City Hall, the Norquay Building, the Centennial Concert Hall — but they are the pride, joy and footprint of a Winnipeg architecture firm.

The new book Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy has captured the architectural impact of one of the city’s longest running and most well-known firms.

Easton Lexier, who was an engineer with GBR for 50 years, said the company started in 1908 “when an immigrant Jewish architect from Odessa set up practice here.”

When he died, his son Cecil Blankstein and friend Lawrence Green took the firm over officially founding GBR in 1932 — with G. Leslie Russell and Ralph Ham also part of the creation of the firm.

They were all graduates of the School of Architecture at the University of Manitoba.

“The makeup of the firm was such that they thought big, they thought ahead of the time,” Lexier said.


From the author

Jeffrey Thorsteinson, alum and sessional instructor in the Faculty of Architecture, wrote the book alongside fellow alum Brennan Smith. As Thorsteinson tells UM Today:

Our book is on the subject of Green Blankstein Russell and Associates (GBR), a Winnipeg-based architecture firm that began in the slow years of the Great Depression. From this inauspicious starting point the firm would grow to become, by the 1950s and 60s, a major player on the Canadian architectural scene: the largest architectural office between Ontario and British Columbia, with seven offices in four provinces. GBR (founded by four U of M graduates) was a hub for partnership and training, and was a pioneering force in its inclusion of women and members of Canada’s diverse cultural communities within the field of design. Covering a wide range of individual buildings and practitioners, this book explores the significant mark GBR made on its hometown and across the country, as well as the firm’s role as a leader in the growth of Modernist architecture in Canada.


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