Manitou a bi Bii daziigae opens at Red River College Polytechnic

Red River College Polytechnic’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, a 21st-century learning environment designed by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group, has officially opened in Winnipeg.

The Centre’s new Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) name, Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, translates to where creator sits (Manitou a bi) and brings light (Bii daziigae). RRC Polytech Elders-in-Residence, Paul Guimond, Okonace (Little Eagle Bone) from Sagkeeng First Nation, and Miss Una Swan, Black Eagle Woman, from Fisher River Cree Nation utilized their own traditional ceremonial protocols for the naming process as their teachings instruct, given to them by their Elders and Spiritual Guides.

“The RRC Polytechnic’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae building tells an impressive story of local, national, and international collaboration – involving 145 architectural & engineering personnel, over 626 construction personnel, and nearly 400 RRC Polytechnic staff that were consulted – and what takes to transform a project from vision to reality,” says Doug Hanna, Principal, Number TEN Architectural Group.

Manitou a bi Bii daziigae
terraced seating in the agora.
Image provided by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group
Photography by Gerry Kopelow

 The new 100,000 sf facility unites a repurposed downtown concrete framed heritage building and new construction to house a combination of Indigenous and international student spaces, long distance teaching equipped classrooms, digital media labs and special events spaces.

The facade of the building is made of dynamic Kromatix Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) panels that change colour depending on the angle of view and the weather. This concept conceals the solar cells behind nano-coated glass panels.

The heart of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae is the agora, conceived as a place for campus-wide events as well as for group and quiet study. All programs overlook and experience the agora; diagonal circulation invites its crossing supported by the collaboration areas that surround it.

The sky-lit atrium above the agora brings diffuse light to the centre of the plan and as a two-storey space accented with balconies on all four sides, it is a theatre-in-the-round with study spaces on the edges. The design introduces a collaboration zone – a front porch between the classroom and the agora and atrium. This porch can be used by the classrooms, as a breakout room or project room, or independently booked by students for study groups.

Manitou a bi Bii daziigae atrium.
Image provided by Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN Architectural Group. Photography by Gerry Kopelow

The Roundhouse auditorium anchors the west corner of the new building. This 210-seat auditorium has a high degree of flexibility, with an acoustically isolated space for ceremonial events, instruction, or celebration and a main entrance at due cardinal east in keeping with Indigenous custom. The Roundhouse features an artwork floor by nêhiyaw/Anishinaabe/British artist KC Adams. 

At roof level, the City Room is a beacon enveloped in a canvas of colour representing traditional Indigenous teachings and local history. The painting, created by Anishinaabe artist Jackie Traverse, is visible both on the ceiling of this fully glazed space and across the cladding and soffit. It is conceived as an aspirational space at the high point of the Centre

“The artwork in Manitou a bi Bii daziigae has required incredible collaboration between artists, architects, construction management, and client to develop new ways of integrating art into building elements.  We worked with Jackie Traverse to scale her site-specific painting using a new type of cladding to show her work from the exterior and interior of the building at a completely different scale. Our design team collaborated with KC Adams on new material techniques to translate her artwork of digital imagery and bitten birchbark into a terrazzo and cast bronze emblem in the floor in of the Roundhouse auditorium. This project has been a terrific partnership and that is what innovation is built upon,” says Sydney Browne, Principal, Diamond Schmitt.