What's in a name? A Canadian firm connects its collective identity to its practice and projects.
Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic had just finished filing the legal paperwork when they decided to name their minutes-old architecture firm after its new corporate identification number. While 5468796 Architecture presents some branding problems in an age when most people don’t even commit their closest friends’ phone numbers to memory, it fit the partners’ desire to project a collective approach to design. “Instead of attaching our names to the firm or coming up with something cute, we wanted the name to show that we are working together as a group,” says Hurme.
Four years later, the firm’s 12 full-time staff members all work around a 40-foot-long table in their Winnipeg office. Their portfolio ranges from retail spaces and a public-art pavilion to houses and multifamily residential projects—thanks to a Canadian real-estate market that has largely avoided the meltdown that disrupted so many other economies. Even as it has grown, 5468796 has kept the ideas that informed its unusual name at the forefront of its practice. The firm’s work consistently considers how design reflects and shapes identity on a personal, urban, and even national scale.
Both Hurme and Radulovic immigrated to Canada in the early 1990s. She grew up in Helsinki; he arrived from Sarajevo, a refugee from the Balkan wars. They met as undergraduates at the University of Manitoba and went on to win several student competitions together. Both designers worked for Cohlmeyer Architects before Hurme goaded Radulovic into starting their own practice. They have been friends and collaborators for more than 15 years and have a habit of finishing each other’s sentences.
The firm recently won the competition to design Canada¹s pavilion for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, with a project that explicitly addresses contemporary Canadian identity. Canada has a net migration rate of 5.65 per 1,000 people, giving it one of the highest immigration rates in the world. In collaboration with designer Jae-Sung Chon, they devised an abstract landscape formed of wooden blocks, and then held a competition, asking Canadian designers under the age of 45 to submit models for residential projects to populate its blank topography. The firm also asked for three-minute videos explaining how the designers’ backgrounds informed the residences that they submitted. “Diversity is a quintessential Canadian condition,” says Radulovic. “We want to translate that to the work we’re doing.”
LOCATION: Winnipeg, Canada
DESIGN STAFF: 12
PRINCIPALS: Johanna Hurme, Sasa Radulovic
EDUCATION: Hurme – University of Manitoba, M.Arch., 2002; B.Env.D., 1999. Radulovic – University of Manitoba, M.Arch., 2003; B.Env.D., 1999
WORK HISTORY:Hurme – Cohlmeyer Architects Limited, 2002–07; Office of Architecture, City of Helsinki, 2000. Radulovic – Cohlmeyer Architects Limited, 1996–2007
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: BGBX, 2011 (Phase 1); OMS Stage, 2010; Webster Cottage, 2010; Welcome Place, 2010
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Guertin Boatport, 2012; Migrating Landscapes, Venice Architecture Biennale, 2012; YouCube, 2012
WEB SITE: WWW.5468796.CA