There exists a Calvinistical line of modern architecture with neorationalist roots, arid codes and constructive precision. In the past two decades, it has been met with facile engraftment in disparate corners of the globe, particularly where the climate is cold.
This line is traceable in work by 5468796 Architecture, an office founded in 2007 in Winnipeg, Canada by the Finnish architect Johanna Hurme (Helsinki, 1975) and the Bosnian architect Sasa Radulovic (Sarajevo, 1972), who were later joined by the Canadian architect Colin Neufeld (Winnipeg, 1975). Here, rigour and conceptual simplicity connect to the archetype of the cabin, and are a means to contain complexity and economy within the bounds of shared parameters. At the same time, these elements establish a channel for dialogue between the abstraction of contemporary architecture and the urban narration accommodating it.
The approach shows affinity with several European architects from the preceding generation, above all Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. However, more than a few design experiments conducted by the Canadian office go beyond this. They contain an organismic bent for eccentric surprises with a neo-avant-gardist touch. “The Avenue on Portage” building (Winnipeg, 2012) and its shimmery cantilevered balconies of polished aluminium are a felicitous miniature reinterpretation of the jutting terraces premiered by MVRDV in Holland for the WoZoCo apartments. The longlegged “spider” of prefabricated concrete on the bank of the Red River (the 62M complex in Winnipeg, 2017) succeeds in translating ready-mades into a residential lexicon, a tongue spoken only by rare pieces of public architecture.
Analogously, the James Avenue Pumphouse in Winnipeg, now under construction, is treated like a big objet trouvé where deliberately plain, modular boxes are grafted on heroic hydraulic machinery from 1907. In 2017, we see 5468796 Architecture showing a similar bias for arte povera in One Bucket at a Time in Mexico City, a wave of white plastic buckets similar to the pixels of a playful urban installation. We suspect that inside 5468796’s more Calvinistical figures, the heart of warm architecture is beating.