Futuristic circular condo building looks spacious, but its shape is based on practicality
I’m always interested in buildings that get nicknames. Usually these nicknames indicate affection, sometimes the opposite, but they always mean people are paying attention.
The circular condo project near the Disraeli Bridge is certainly noticed. It’s been called the flying saucer, the UFO, the spaceship. It has been compared to a hockey puck, chocolate cake, donut, and Trivial Pursuit game piece.
Its official name is 62M, after its address is 62 MacDonald Ave. It rises dramatically on 10-meter concrete stilts, appearing to hover near the bridge, and when its windows glow in the night sky, this contemporary structure can appear spacious.
In fact, 62M is an anchored structure, its super cool futuristic form rooted in practical issues of old-fashioned building efficiency, profitability, and economics of the prairies.
Designed by 5468796 Architecture, a Winnipeg-based firm that has garnered national and international attention and awards since its founding in 2007, the shape of the 62M is a thoughtful response to its unappealing site. Despite being located near the recent wave of posh development along Waterfront Drive, the structure sits on a remnant of industrial land, on an awkward, bushy site crammed against the freeway.
To get the light and views needed for a residential project, the architects had to go up, and once up, they had to build as efficiently as possible to keep the costs of these entry-level condos down. They ended up with a two-level circle with 40 triangular units of identical shape, plus a fabulous penthouse at the top. (It is rented on Airbnb.)
Ken Borton, a partner at firm 546, was the architect on the project, having seen 62M from design to completion in 2017, and it also happens to be living there with his family now. He recognizes that the building’s unusual shape makes it a recognizable landmark.
“When you say, ‘I’m in the spaceship above the bridge,’ people know exactly where it is. ”
“When you say, ‘I’m in the spaceship above the bridge,’ people know exactly where it is. ” – Ken Borton, project architect
But this is not a glance at me. “We didn’t just make a big circle and put him on his legs to draw attention to him,” says Borton. “In fact, we did not enter the project with that in mind. The final design was determined by the odd size and shape of the site, budget constraints, and how many units the developers wanted.
Borton recalls one late night session: “It was three in the morning, and I was just testing all the options to see what worked on the site, and more and more the circle fit the best. The shape of the disc allowed for the most square footage with the least amount of building envelope and reduced construction and maintenance costs. And because the units were identically shaped, many modular elements could be prefabricated off-site.
The space is compact but seems bigger. “It’s wide where you want it to be, and you don’t really notice the angle,” suggests Borton. “And he feels generous because of the big flexible and open space and all that window.” Over 20 feet wide, with floor-to-ceiling glass, the window opens up the space to the city skyline.