Manitoba Business: Green Blankstein Russell and Associates
Winnipeg saw a boom in modernist architecture beginning in the 1950s. Few architectural firms could claim to have had a greater impact on this development than Green Blankstein Russell (GBR). From civil to religious, educational to industrial, their influence continues to be felt throughout the city.
Founded in March 1932 by Lawrence John “Laurie” Green, Cecil Nathan Blankstein, Gordon Leslie Russell, and Ralph Carl Ham as Green, Blank, Russell and Associates, the firm would work steadily in the first two decades of its existence. However, it was not until after the Second World War that it would begin to develop its own modernist style and begin to truly make a mark on the city. After a number of low-cost housing proposals for the municipal government failed to receive funding, the firm put the experience and knowledge they developed into the Wildwood Park neighborhood in the city’s south.
The 1950s had the firm develop churches (Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, St. George’s Anglican Church, and St. Paul’s College and Chapel), commercial spaces (Polo Park Shopping Centre) and office buildings (Great West Life Building). However, its biggest impact on the city was to come in the following decade. The renewal of the city’s downtown began with the new City Hall complex in 1964. By the end of the decade this urban development project included the Centennial Concert Hall and the Museum of Man and Nature and the Planetarium directly across from City Hall.
The modernist style of the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba would be heavily influenced by GBR. Notable buildings include the Elizabeth Dafoe Library, Science Complex, St. Andrew’s College, and Duff Roblin Building. The aesthetic brought to the campus by GBR and other local firms would come to be called University of Manitoba Modern. The firm would continue to develop projects in various sectors throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. This includes the Asper Jewish Community Campus (1997) that currently houses most of the city’s Jewish organizations.
In 2004, the firm was acquired by the Edmonton-based Stantec group of companies.
Collections at the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada that highlight the work of GBR includes the Cecil Blankstein fonds, which include photographs and drawings of the firm’s work as well as newspaper clippings, newsletters, and correspondence.
Some of the Manitoba buildings that the firm designed:
“200 can make home-history,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 September 1964, page 9.
“Sod-turning for Co-op housing [Willow Park],” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 September 1964, page 25.
“Go ahead signal for Civic Centre,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 October 1964, page 52.
[Photo caption - National Trust building], Winnipeg Free Press, 21 January 1965, page 20.
“Green Blankstein Russell Associates - Executive Appointments,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 March 1966, page 19.
“University of Manitoba geared for growth,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 April 1966, page 38.
“Tenders for additions to the Allan and Parker Buildings, the University of Manitoba,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 June 1966, page 58.
“Tenders for additions and alterations to Deloraine High School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 September 1966, page 40.
“Tenders for Zoology-Psychology Building, the University of Manitoba,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 April 1967, page 63.
“$2.8 million Engineering Wing for U of M,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 April 1966, page 12.
“New St. Nicholas dedication Sunday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 July 1966, page 28.
“U of M building opens soon [Engineering Building],” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 September 1967, page 4.
“Tender for Deloraine Elementary School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 October 1967, page 49.
“Air Canada [Air Cargo Terminal],” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 November 1967, page 45.
“Tenders for Greenhouse for the University of Manitoba,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 August 1968, page 22.
“National School to build new plant,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 1968, page 60.
“Tenders for Holy Family Nursing Home,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 May 1969, page 40.
“Fresh Water Institute [Fresh Water Institute, Fisheries Research Board of Canada at the University of Manitoba campus],” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 August 1970, page 37.
“Green, Blankstein, Russell and the construction of modern Winnipeg” by Andrew Morrison, Canadian Jewish Studies, Volume 31, pages 175-180, 2021.
We thank Belle the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada for sharing much of the content from which this page was produced.
Page revised: 5 January 2022