Winnipeg subterranean museum


Link to project booklet

Under the ruins of an old garage in the Point Douglas area of Winnipeg, a hidden museum resides, a record of the subterranean depths and the secrets it holds. It is a means of creating a historical record of the Red River through an architectural intervention. While part of the underground space was treated as an archaeological site and "discovered" as the site was dug out, other parts revealed complex architectures from times past, such as columns, and an old mine shaft. The narrative I wrote from my observations created the framework of what the site would become.

I have come across a place that has been strangely ignored by the rest of the world, for some time. The space is in suspended chaos - mechanical remnants litter the floor, acting as indicators of a time past.

The first thing I notice are the bricks.

Bricks create the walls, bricks sit piled in a corner, bricks litter the floor. One brick I come across is irregularly-shaped; it has a circular marker on it.
Perhaps a throwback to an earlier age.
"B 21280"
The bricks are an indicator card, something of great utility in the past, yet now they lie in ruins.
What does a brick want to be? What does a brick think it is?
These are the bricks from OZARK D.P B 21280 M BUTTS MOULDER.
That is, 37 10"24.27" N, 94 30"33.46" W.

I can see wrecked boxes, filled with broken switches and dusty fuses.
The fuses are illegible, they almost certainly are not new, by any means. This place was a busy spot for industry, I think.

In a crude attempt to hide the fallacies of the past, colourful graffiti adorns the walls of my space. As a traveller to this time, I do not understand their meaning.

Perhaps the people that inhabit this time can understand its meaning.

My imagined narrative led to a series of drawings, illustrating the space through different eras. In the earliest times, bricks controlled the space, having a free will of their own. It was through their choice that the space formed into what it currently was. An industrial time showed vats, stairs, electrical panels, and machinery, in use by an industrial people. This was the point in which the space reached its peak of use. The present time highlighted the graffiti that now covered the walls. The machinery has been disassembled and is lost. Only small artefacts remained as proof of times past.

Imagining digging down into the site, I constructed a space replete with signatures of the past which was informed through my explorations of the surface. Although the garage had been unused for decades, I discovered old fuses, bricks and hand tools. Each object was crafted into an experience underground; the bricks inspired forgotten archways and the tools carved out an informative space, where eventually water collected and flooded the space. The entire setup was directed by my own imagination and what I gleaned from the surface. The middle of the space had a well for ground-water to be collected in, and planks created a temporary floor for the visitor to view archaeological remains of time. Striations of clay are visible on the walls, serving as an underground window into the ever-shifting landscape of the riverbed below the surface.

The model was cast in parts, using formwork to hold the plaster that became larger with each step. Cast-in-place LED lighting illuminated the space and created hidden secrets that would only show themselves in the daytime, when daylight would come streaming in through the openings in the ground.