62M Apartments / 5468796 Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. 62M is a residential development located on the boundary of downtown Winnipeg and the Red River. Informally nicknamed the “flying saucer” or “UFO” due to its circular shape rising above the city, the condominium emerges on the horizon with a distinctive presence, rising between the adjacent freeway and the rear of neighboring properties.
The building’s marginal site was considered undesirable due to its industrial nature, restricted site views, and lack of street frontage. This resulted in a unique opportunity and challenge, requiring 5468796 to come up with a design that would subvert perceptions and capitalize on the project’s proximity to the Red River and the historic Stock Exchange District. Designed for a budget equal to that of standard wood-frame construction, each of the 40 entry-level studios measures less than 57 square meters.
The unique shape of 62M results from practical solutions to site and budget challenges. Elevating the building on 35-foot-tall columns, the design overcomes the limitations of the surrounding area while generating unprecedented sightlines. Entrance to the building is through a centralized concrete core. Housing a stairwell, an elevator and a service shaft, also ensures all the lateral stability of the structure. Unusual in Canada, and especially in Winnipeg where temperatures can reach minus 40 degrees Celsius, hallways are covered but open to the sky, with concrete surfaces and chain-link fencing borrowed from the pervasive industrial nature of the project’s surroundings.
A circular design is the defining innovation of the project. The reduction in the external constructed envelope of 30% compared to a rectilinear building of comparable size was designed to offset the costs of raising the building itself. The 360º plan is spatially efficient and cost-effective, providing a narrow circumference/area dedicated to common hallways and the widest possible perimeter for suite windows to optimize construction costs. Once the platform was built “in the air”, construction proceeded as for a standard two-storey building.
Two layers of 20 pie-shaped layouts also simplified assembly. Each suite is arranged so that the entrance and utility spaces occupy the narrow end, closest to the circulation core. This configuration frees up the remaining square footage for a flexible and airy open plan living space that culminates in a vast six meter wall of floor-to-ceiling glass.
At ground level, 20 support columns spaced between double parking bays form a ring just inside the perimeter of the building. The slenderness of the columns is a clear counterpoint to the strip of housing above, emphasizing its weight and mass. In order to reduce construction times and meet a very tight budget, the building was designed as a prefabricated structure. The precast concrete columns – shaped to provide ledges for lighting and space for parking – were fabricated offsite during the winter and laid out along a radial grid in the spring. Once the cast-in-place core has been built to the height of the columns, the radial grid of steel beams aligned on the party walls connects the columns to the core.
Pre-engineered wedge-shaped wooden wall and floor sections were lifted into place by crane to form the donut-shaped two-story building. A pre-engineered unitized system of conventional windows was developed to complete the envelope around the full perimeter of the building. A series of custom-formed fins line up in the breaks between the windows and the weather-resistant steel cladding, with the added benefit of concealing the facets. The resulting building breaks all conventions for entry-level developer housing while utilizing a derelict site to provide a striking new addition to the Winnipeg skyline.
Halfway through the project, 5468796 recognized the potential of the central core and the uniqueness of the address to build an efficient micro-penthouse above the elevator. Utilizing every inch of available space, the fully functional guest suite includes a bathroom with sauna, a kitchen with a sunken living room, bed and bath, and a roof terrace. A gem of a glass box, the penthouse shines like a lantern above the ‘saucer’. Inside, mirror-polished columns support the pre-engineered roof structure, refracting light and the surrounding landscape into the living space and giving the illusion of uninterrupted 360º views of the city and prairie skyline beyond. of the.