The Cube by 5468796 Architecture 09.08.11

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Last summer an enormous silver cube appeared in the middle of Old Market Square in Winnipeg, Canada. The structure by 5468796 Architecture (a collective of 12 which takes its name from its incorporation number), was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Just as the black monolith that appears at the beginning of Stanley Kubrick's film attracted fear and fascination from our ape-like ancestors, the sleek and modern Cube, located in the city's historic centre, has provoked controversy among Winnipegians.

Nevertheless, after serving as a stage for the summer festival season, the 28ft Cube has already become a landmark and garnered international prestige winning an Emerging Architecture Award in London in November 2010.

The structure consists of 20,000 identical pieces of diamond-cut aluminium and the facade can be lifted with a winch system, like a chain-mail curtain (or a sardine can), to reveal the stage. The concrete pillar that holds up the roof also forms a stair to a second floor. The sloped ceiling over the main stage supports bleachers to create an intimate, open-air auditorium for 30 people.

Unlike the band shell it replaced, the Cube won't sit inert for 321 days of the year. It can be illuminated in various colours and is equipped with motion sensors so they change as you move around. The metal skin also acts as a screen for video artists: images projected onto the inside of the cube are reflected two times by the aluminium cells and appear the right way around on the outside; each metal piece is a pixel in the larger image. Architect Sasa Radulovic describes it as a multi-purpose canvas: "We tried to create an intriguing object that had a personality, a living creature in the city."

"When you see people approaching it," 
says Johanna Hurme, another of the firm's principals, "they have to instantly touch the skin and walk around it trying to figure out what's going on." This sounds more like the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca and the ritual circling of the cuboid Kaaba, than 2001. "I wouldn't recommend people kiss it," Hurme responds, "especially in the Canadian winter, because their tongues will get stuck."

 

Image

5468796 Architecture

 

Words

Christopher Turner

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When you see people approaching it they have to instantly touch the skin and walk around it trying to figure out what's going on

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