Manitou a bi Bii daziigae: A Place for Innovation and Collaboration

September 21, 2022

Story

Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Number TEN Architectural Group in joint venture, Red River College Polytechnic’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae is a place for learning and innovation. The Centre's Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) name was chosen by Paul Guimond and Una Swan, two of the College's Indigenous Elders-in-Residence. Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, translates to ‘where the creator sits (Maniou a bi) and brings light (Bii daziigae).

Located in Winnipeg, the facility encourages collaboration between students, staff, and industry for the purpose of education, social innovation, and research. The building offers a combination of Indigenous and international student spaces, long distance teaching equipped classrooms, digital media labs, and special events spaces such as the 210-seat Roundhouse auditorium. The facade of the building is made of dynamic Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) panels that change colour from bronze to gold depending on the viewing angle and the weather, creating an almost magical effect.

Entro designed the wayfinding program taking care to support the building’s unique architectural shapes and patterns. We wanted the signage to add to the innovative aspect of the college, to go beyond a standard program with a design that is visually engaging and sophisticated, while at the same time respectful of RRC Polytechnic's signage guidelines.

The building, situated amongst the historic warehouses of Winnipeg's Exchange District, creates a link between the new and the old. Joined by a second storey bridge, which sports a large Red River College Polytechnic logo, the new Manitou a bi Bii daziigae Centre links with the repurposed 1914 Scott Fruit Building, recipient of a 2022 Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Award.

Inside, the signage program replicates the vertical articulation on the building’s curtain wall and interior wood paneling. Large-scale level indicators, window films, and room signage feature vertical grill patterns that repeat the soft lines of the building and convey the sense of light and airiness experienced throughout.

The agora is the heart of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, illuminated by the sky-lit atrium above a two-storey space surrounded by curved balconies. Directional signage is minimal: circulation routes are immersed in light to promote intuitive wayfinding, and the floor plan is open, with staircase, classrooms, and elevators clearly visible upon arrival.

At roof level, the City Room represents traditional Indigenous teachings and local history. The stunning site-specific painting created by Anishinaabe artist Jackie Traverse is visible both on the ceiling of this space and the cornice projecting over the street. It is conceived as an aspirational space at the high point of the Centre.

Find out more about the project from Diamond Schmitt and Canadian Architect.
Photography by doublespace