ATU Local 1505 Winnipeg

City unveils winner for Winnipeg General Strike design competition (May 30, 2016)

Starting this summer, the legacy of the thousands of metal workers who walked off the job in Winnipeg nearly a century ago, forever changing the course of our city’s history, will be memorialized in a new installation, constructed from the very material they once cast.

Local firm Monteyne Architecture has been announced as the winner of a design competition to create a monument in the exchange district, commemorating the general strike of 1919.

“One thing that struck me about the strike is that people have fairly different interpretations of it, depending on what their socio-economic background is,” said Tom Monteyne of Monteyne Architecture.

“What we were trying to do is avoid a simple interpretation, but allow multiple meanings.”

A total of 14 design and architecture groups entered the competition, which was announced in February.

The city says H5 Architecture and Unit 7 Architecture were among finalists.

Monteyne has called the winning design, The 1919 Marquee, inspired by the marquees on surrounding buildings, such as the Manitoba Theatre Centre, across the street from the site’s location on the corner of Market Avenue and Lily Street.

He said the piece would stand as a billboard, constructed from weathering steel, which is intended to rust.

A series of words will be incorporated onto the surface of the design, Monteyne says, describing they will be assembled as somewhat of a word puzzle.

Some of the vocabulary will include Vulcan, after Vulcan Ironworks, whose workers joined in the 1919 strike.

Another word is crucible, which Monteyne says carries a double meaning as a both a container that melts metal, and as adjective to describe to the historical significance of the strike itself.

“The strike was a very dramatic event,” he said.

“Even though some would say the strikers lost because it was quite violently put down, it pretty much directly led to political evolution of this country.”

Monteyne explains the installation will also feature some public seating, and depending on the project’s budget, could include a walking tour map and interpretive panels.

He says a team of nine worked on the project, including a historian, documentarian and a construction manager.

The city awarded his team $5,000 when they were shortlisted, and another $250,000 after winning. Monteyne explains that amount is supposed to cover some of the firm’s cost to build the piece, but expects several more engineers will need to be hired first.

“To be quite honest, at the moment we’re probably spending all the money on the monument, unless we can simplify it.”

The city says work on the monument is expected to begin this summer, with Monteyne planning for a start-up meeting Wednesday.

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