Clifford Wiens is confirmed dead at the age of 93.
Clifford was best known as a Canadian architect.
RIP Clifford Wiens #CliffordWiens add some flowers to their gravestone at
A moment of silence for Clifford Wiens - #CliffordWiens #Clifford #Wiens #rip
RT @UofRegina: The #UofRegina remembers the life and work of renowned Saskatchewan architect Clifford Wiens who passed away earlie…
The #UofRegina remembers the life and work of renowned Saskatchewan architect Clifford Wiens who passed away earlie…
Sask. architect Clifford Wiens dies at 93 | CBC News
RT @wpgarch: Saskatchewan modernist architect Clifford Wiens dies at 93 | CBC News
We are saddened to learn of the passing of architect Clifford Wiens, one the greatest prairie architects whose work…
RT @HeidiAtter: Wiens is known for the @CBCSask building, Silton Chapel and more. // #yqr #yxe #sask
Saskatchewan modernist architect Clifford Wiens dies at 93 | CBC News
My friend, mentor, former teacher, and exhibition inspiration CLIFFORD WIENS has died. Our exhibition “TELLING DET…
RT @darrylcondon: Sorry to hear this news. His work deserves much more attention. Absolutely brilliant Architect. Condolences to his…
Sad to hear of the passing of legendary Saskatchewan architect Clifford Wiens. He was my Dad and Mom’s first boss a…
RT @darrylcondon: Sorry to hear this news. His work deserves much more attention. Absolutely brilliant Architect. Condolences to his…
Sorry to hear this news. His work deserves much more attention. Absolutely brilliant Architect. Condolences to his…
Sask. architect Clifford Wiens dies at 93
Sask. architect Clifford Wiens dies at 93
Wiens is known for the @CBCSask 1224696639702564869,2020-02-04 14:10:07 +0000,traikman,RT @CBCSask: Sask. architect Clifford Wiens dies at 93
Clifford Wiens

Clifford Wiens (portrait c. 1960s).png
Born(1926-04-27)27 April 1926
Died26 January 2020(2020-01-26) (aged 93)
Alma materRhode Island School of Design[note 1]
OccupationArchitect, author
Spouse(s)Patricia Elizabeth Leigh (m. 1955)
ChildrenMieka Tomilin • Robin Poitras • Inga Wiens • Susan Wright • Nathan Wiens • Lisa McNeil
ProjectsSaskatchewan Legislative Building (restoration and renovation)
Clifford Donald Wiens was a Canadian architect and author.
The first two-thirds of his professional career spanned forty years, a diverse body of architectural work found throughout Saskatchewan including designs for schools and hospitals, chapels and churches, motel and apartment buildings, private residences, buildings for corporations and health spas, dairy creameries in Regina and Saskatoon, and a Trans-Canada Highway campground. He completed over one hundred projects.
During the early phase of his career in the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by his relationship with the group of abstract painters known as the Regina Five as well as his own background in industrial design, Wiens actively sought out new ideas and innovations in architecture, interested in developing a style responsive to the prairie landscape and history, developing a reputation for "inventive" architectural and structural details and "simple but strong forms".
Wiens achieved his greatest prominence after Expo 67, winning three Massey Award medals, Canada's top award for architecture, more than any other Saskatchewan architect, and two National Design Council of Canada Awards. Wiens is one of the most nationally and internationally recognized designers from Saskatchewan.
The body of work reflects both corporate modern architecture and a broader expressionist movement with a distinctive approach to structure and form, an experimental International Style, but with "an expressive formal aesthetic and a respectful sensitivity to context and the surrounding landscape." Despite being recognized as one of one of Canada's best architects, some of Wiens' projects are in need of restoration and protection as they are slowly declining into disrepair.
After retirement, Wiens wrote and published several books, initially professional and personal memoirs.
1 Early life and education
2 Career
2.1 Early independent projects and recognition, 1957–1966
2.1.1 St. Joseph's Church (1959)
2.1.2 John Nugent Studio (1960)
2.1.3 Mennonite Bretheren Church (1961)
2.1.4 Lakeshore Residence (1962)
2.1.5 Maple Creek Campground (1965) and work on the Saskatchewan Legislative Building
2.2 National and international recognition, 1967–1979
2.2.1 Cental Heating and Cooling Plant, University of Regina (1967)
2.2.2 Silton Chapel (1969)
2.2.3 Spiral Teepee Picnic Shelters (1970)
2.2.4 Nakusp Hot Springs Resort, R.C. Dahl Centre (1974), and unrealized national project
2.3 Mid-career project highlights, 1980–1994
2.3.1 CBC Studios, Regina (1983)
2.3.2 Prince Albert City Hall (1984)
2.4 Later work and recognition, 1995–2012
2.5 Related pursuits
2.5.1 Lecturing and teaching
2.5.2 Authorship
3 Design philosophy
3.1 Influences and aesthetics
3.2 Modernism and "total focus"
4 Critical assessment
5 Personal life
5.1 Residence and pastimes
5.2 Marriage and children
5.3 Friendships
5.4 Death
6 Professional affiliations
7 Exhibitions
8 Select bibliography
9 Note
10 References
11 External links
Early life and education
Clifford Wiens was born on 27 April 1926 to a Mennonite farming family, near Glen Kerr, Saskatchewan, in the "grain belt" west of Regina. His Mennonite family put a strong emphasis on self-reliance, and while growing up he developed the wide range of wood frame construction, metalworking and mechanical skills needed for the operation of their farm. For example, he and his brother Burt would drive holes for fence posts with a crowbar, as recounted by Bernard Flaman: "The incongruity between his own physical strength and the unyielding earth required invention for almost every task and also caused him to observe and analyze the forces required to start the hole and drive the post." Flaman and others point to anecdotes such as this as the source of Wiens' brand of "prairie modernism": "an astonishing capacity for invention, a love of pragmatic problem-solving, a sensitivity to the landscape, and a sophisticated approach to structure and form." These were skills useful in his career as an architect.
Interested in art and design, Wiens studied painting in Banff, Alberta with A.Y. Jackson, a founder of the Group of Seven, at the Banff Centre for Continuing Education, and agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon under a wheat pool sponsorship program for young farmers, and machine tooling at the Moose Jaw Technical School. In 1949, he was accepted by the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island on a full scholarship, where he began studies in industrial design, intending to design farm equipment, but switched to the architecture program, which was then steeped in "the high Modernism" of the Bauhaus. His fourth year project was a design for a ski lodge. Wiens graduated in 1954 with a B.Arch.
Upon graduation, Wiens returned home and worked for Stock and Ramsay Architects as a designer until 1955, and then until 1957 for Joseph Pettick, for whom he made modest contributions to the design of the "breakthrough" Saskatchewan Power Corporation building. At the same time, he developed close intellectual, artistic and friendship links with the Regina Five, some of Canada's most acclaimed and advanced abstract painters of the period. Immersed as he was in the landscape, Trevor Boddy finds it suprising that he chose to practice in urban neighbourhoods.
Early independent projects and recognition, 1957–1966
Wiens founded his own architecture firm in Regina in 1957. Over a period of forty years, the firm completed more than a hundred projects including a series of schools, creameries and fire halls. The practice was unusual for its extremely wide range of clients and building types. Trevor Boddy remarks that "bold detailing and elegant spaces characterize even the most modest of his works," notably the early trio of churches: St. Joseph's in Whitewood (1959), Mennonite Brethren in Regina (1961), and Our Lady in Moose Jaw (1966).
St. Joseph's Church (1959)
In 1958, Wiens began work on what is considered to be his first important project, St. Joseph's, a Roman Catholic church in Whitewood. The wooden structure, completed in 1959, is simple and triangular. Wiens settled almost from the beginning upon a triangular design, not simply for aesthetic reasons, but also because "the triangle is a very stable shape". Thompson suggests the slanting shingled roof extends all the way to the ground "as though protecting the congregation from prairie winds."
John Nugent Studio (1960)
Main article: John Nugent Studio
John Nugent's Studio in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, features a design which integrates the building with its surrounding landscape.
Wiens designed sculptor and chandler John Nugent's studio located on a 2.7-hectare parcel of land that forms the north slope of the Qu'Appelle Valley in Lumsden. Wiens used various types of concrete construction, the structure consisting of a candlemaking studio and a circular foundry with a thin-shelled conical roof, constructed of pre-tensioned, thin-shell concrete, and connected to a fan-shaped sculpture that appears to float on a band of glass at its base. Sections of concrete culverts were used for the window openings, illustrating the combination of manufactured elements with crafted elements characterizing the overall nature of the structure.
The studio was constructed over successive weekends in one year by Nugent and Wiens, with help from artists Kenneth Lochhead (one of the Regina Five) and Roy Kiyooka. Wiens had previously designed Lochhead's Balgonie studio, a "slant-roofed, sky-lighted modernist building" on the site of an old blacksmith's shop behind Lochhead's house. Wiens was included in the Five's original May 1961 show at the MacKenzie Art Gallery by art director Ron Bloore (also one of the Five), who considered Wiens part of the group for sharing "the same initiative, attitude and ambition", and was also included in the subsequent November exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. Years later, he would design Lochhead's artist-in-residence studio on the site of the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon.
According to a provincial government guide to heritage properties, the primary architectural significance of the Studio is its
"innovative design which integrates the building with its surrounding landscape", the roof of the foundry in particular, which is "structurally unique". Wiens called the design philosophy he had developed by the time of designing the Studio "total focus", a combination of structural and architectural ideas. For its inventive design, the Studio received a Massey silver medal in 1967 from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The Studio has been a Provincial Heritage Property since 2005.
The same year, Wiens designed offices of Regina's largest private employer, IPSCO Steel, and began a decade of service as the president of the Regina Chapter of Architects (1960-1969).
Mennonite Bretheren Church (1961)
As Wiens noted in a description of the work, Mennonite churches had typically been simple clapboard structures, "often only one step removed from being a home". He attempted to maintain a "simplicity" in the building so as to convey a feeling of shelter, not just from the elements, "but from the world which is so much an underlying theme in the Mennonite way of life" and to that end the church is scaled to a small congregation, with a sloping wall and "an almost total absence of windows"; even the continuous recessed gutter which isolates the roof from the building is meant to convey the sense of it being draped over the roof "like a blanket". The "unique" plywood beams, in a W-arrangement, provided lightweight roof support at minimum cost. The Church received a Massey Medal mention in 1964.
Lakeshore Residence (1962)
A noted residential project is the Lakeshore Residence built in the Qu'Appelle Valley near Lebret, which "celebrates the landscape" with an angled roof and concrete and wood materials, "attuning itself to the site." The house rises from a moat at a stark angle "like a small cathedral". Wiens said: "It provides a vertical counterpoint to the horizon line of the prairies", which generates a "powerful" sense of the vastness of the landscape. A pioneering example of environmental design, there is a system of buffering spaces and apertures within the wooden walls to redistribute the heat and humidity generated by the home's indoor swimming pool, later saying: "The walls warm themselves. Can you imagine?" The house also features a louvred façade functioning as a brise-soleil: an architectural manifestation of how, when stepping out of a building into "the blaze of the prairie sun," the reflexive gesture is to shield one's eyes.
Maple Creek Campground (1965) and work on the Saskatchewan Legislative Building
In 1965, Wiens designed a Trans-Canada Highway campground at Maple Creek: a "simple, classical post-and-lintel structure," lying low along the horizon and in harmony with the prairie landscape. Some of the structures at the campground feature square plans with roofs supported on a rotated cross structure similar to John Nugent's studio and the Silton chapel. The same year, he started what was to be a major project, the renovation and restoration of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, taking some fourteen years to complete and called a "masterful" renovation by Steven Mannell.
National and international recognition, 1967–1979
Wiens garnered several national, binational, and international awards, namely the Merit Award and Award of Excellence from the National Design Council of Canada (1967), the Prestressed Concrete Institute Award (U.S. and Canada, 1967), two more Massey Medals (1970), and an award co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects in 1975. He rose to national prominence following Expo 67, as "a wave of nationalism" gave impetus to a Canadian demand for more original and expressive architecture. By 1970, his designs were published widely "as an exemplar of the remarkable flowering of Canadian architecture in the wake of Expo 67."
The Heating and Cooling Plant at the University of Regina.
In 1969, Wiens was one of several professionals, CEOs, and politicians invited by Richard Rohmer to a conference in Thunder Bay which he hoped would convince the Canadian Government to "forge a new nation" in the dense woods around Lake Athabasca, Hudson Bay and northern British Columbia. Rohmer took the planners on field trips in DC-3s to Canada's remote boreal communities, including Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Inuvik, flying "just above the treetops." Wiens spent these flights in the cockpit, marvelling at the country rushing beneath him: "You felt as if a hand was suspending you above the landscape". Despite that experience, Wiens was a dissident at the conference, along with other Westerners.
Cental Heating and Cooling Plant, University of Regina (1967)
Main article: Heating and Cooling Plant (University of Regina)
I had to build a case for anything more architectural than a steel box, so this A-frame is a concrete temple to technology, with concrete bays and removable end walls set to the precise size and shape required by heaters, pumps, switches and chillers.
Clifford Wiens
The building's understated exuberance is articulated through an elegant construction of site-cast concrete, a stunning counterpoint to its prairie landscape and a monument to powerful and everlasting architecture that supports research and education.
Ian Chodikoff
In March 1965, plans were announced in the Leader-Post for a modern central heating and air conditioning plant that would "provide architectural interest as well as warmth" to what was then the newly built Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan, with two boilers to be installed immediately, a third to be added in 1970 and a fourth in 1975 when the final bay was added. The University of Regina Heating and Cooling Plant is distinguished by a unique A-frame form of exposed pre-cast concrete and corten steel. The building resembles a prairie grain elevator, thereby linking the project to its region: "a concrete pyramid with descending struts and a triangle at its front," William P. Thompson calls the building "striking in its expressiveness and dynamism for a purely functional, industrial structure." Michelangelo Sabatino and Rhodri Windsor Liscombe call the work "powerfully evocative of ancient master-building".
Called the architect's masterpiece by Ian Chodikoff, the Plant is an example of innovative and expressive modernist architecture, quickly becoming a city landmark, recognized by the Prestressed Concrete Instiute Award in 1967, a Massey Medal in 1970, and again in 2011 with the Prix du XXe siècle in 2011. A comment by the jury reads:The Heating and Cooling Plant embodies the successful marriage of sophisticated structural design, contemporary materials, adaptation of plan and section to function, and expressive form that was the goal of the best of modern architecture. The direct and unadorned industrial materials, their natural colours and simple forms reflect the utilitarian agricultural equipment and structures of the prairie farms with which Wiens was familiar, while the bold silhouette of the building recalls that ubiquitous prairie landmark, the grain elevator.
When Wiens took the stage in Vancouver to receive the award, he remarked that he would gladly trade the award for the chance to have his project maintained as he had originally designed it, at which the audience applauded robustly.
Silton Chapel (1969)
The most primeval piece of land architecture in Canada.
Lisa Rochon, Up North: Where Canada's Architecture Meets the Land
Half the art of architecture is knowing the site.
Clifford Wiens (quoted by Trevor Boddy)
Consecrated as Our Lady of the Lake Chapel (Archdiocese of Regina), located near the village of Silton, a short drive from Lumsden, or about 45 minutes from Regina, on a bench of land just below the brow of the embankment overlooking Last Mountain Lake at Saskatchewan Beach is an outdoor or summer chapel without walls. Wiens designed a pyramidal roof which appears to hover or float above the congregational area, supported by glulam support beams held up on concrete pillars, a natural boulder underneath serving as an altar, while a small cast-concrete pillbox provides a vestiary and the baptismal fount filled with water running off the cedar-shingled cantilevered roof down an iron chain serving as an improvised drainpipe. The chapel's seemingly floating corners were suspended by tension rods embedded in the wood-frame structure of the roof, and require periodic adjustment; the rods in turn are connected to a compression plate at the apex, transferring the load of the corners to the top, then down the roof structure to the glulam beams. When first built, the chapel had no pews and a dirt floor later replaced by a layer of pebble stones.
The chapel won Wiens a third Massey Medal in 1970. Thompson says that the structure has been called "sublime" for the way it pays particular attention to the landscape and "reveals itself to the visitor." Architecture critic Trevor Boddy asserts that the design appeals regardless of religious affiliation:Whether one is pagan (natural vistas provide the "stained glass" for worshippers on the bench-pews), Roman Catholic (this is a fully consecrated church), aesthete (the design is a chef d'oeuvre of minimalism) or engineer (with a steel vertical tie-rod at centre, the foursquare roof acts structurally as an innovative space frame). Seldom has Mies van der Rohe's dictum of "less is more" resonated as forcefully as here – architecture reduced to its essence, and in so doing, amplified cosmically.
In 2011, the chapel was vandalized, and when heritage conservation architect Bernard Flaman went to investigate the damage, he found the chapel was in danger of collapse from a slump in the valley hillside. The chapel was saved from imminent collapse by a single post hastily placed below the sagging north beam, though more work needed to be done. By September 2011, there were concerns that the Church would opt to demolish the chapel rather than have the chapel designated a heritage site. In November 2015, Flaman wrote the community's efforts to raise funds and awareness had failed to generate the necessary amount to repair the building. It is scheduled for demolition as of 2020.
Spiral Teepee Picnic Shelters (1970)
Wiens sometimes undertook small, idiosyncratic projects, such as the Spiral Teepee Picnic Shelters located in provincial parks across Saskatchewan, which Thompson describes as "just an upward whorl of wood open at one end," with room enough inside for a family to sit and have lunch or wait out a downpour. Because construction was scheduled for winter when the ground is frozen the design called for only the centre pole to penetrate the ground, then footings were added in the spring. Wiens also planned the design so that rafter poles would absorb some ground movement. The same year, Wiens served as president of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects. The shelters were recognized by the Architectural Awards Program for 1975, sponsored jointly by the American Institute of Architects and the Red Cedar Shingle and Handsplit Shake Bureau with a "first award" in the commercial-institutional category.
Nakusp Hot Springs Resort, R.C. Dahl Centre (1974), and unrealized national project
A more prominent project from the period is the Hot Springs Resort in Nakusp, British Columbia (1974), built the same year as the "innovative" R.C. Dahl building in Swift Current, which became a centre for the town's growing arts community.
Wiens submitted an unsuccessful competition entry for the National Gallery of Canada in 1977, described as one two projects displaying "a dramatic leap in scale" by Bernard Flaman.
Mid-career project highlights, 1980–1994
CBC Studios, Regina (1983)
The other project that Flaman said displays a dramatic leap in scale is the Regina headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a facility which was originally expected to have opened in 1979–80. The work forms a galleria to view the dome of the Legislative Building (which Wiens finished renovating at the end of the previous decade). Thompson describes the cement building as having "a staggered, blunt shape... which seems to be hunkering down and leaning into the landscape", the "directness and rawness of the building" a reflection of the aims of the institution."
The new building accommodated both English and French radio and television studios, including TV studios of 3,500 and 1,800 square feet, a packaging studio, two automated on-air booths and a central equipment room, as well as seven remote electronic field production units, three electronic editing suites, six quad VTR's, three telecine chains, character generators and electronic slide store units, while the radio facilities included nine studios, multi-track mixing consoles, 16 listening/editing rooms and automated switching systems. Wiens won a City of Regina Heritage Award in 1983. Victor Cicansky produced a long ceramic mural for the building, The Garden Fence (1984).
In late February 2019, the Saskatchewan Government announced plans to acquire the building for the purpose of turning it into a centralized provincial archive; the CBC would continue to operate in parts of the builing under a lease.
Prince Albert City Hall (1984)
Another prominent work by Wiens is the City Hall in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan with a Tyndall stone façade, with nested stone rectangles in its central doorway and window, a clock tower rising from its mid-point, which Trevor Boddy suggests projects "judiciousness and dignity."
Later work and recognition, 1995–2012
Leslie Jen has remarked that Saskatchewan's fortunes waned with the end of the 1980s and "the province languished for almost two solid decades, architecturally and otherwise." In his sixties, Wiens closed his practice in Regina and moved to Vancouver (by way of Arizona, where he taught for a while) and continued to act as a consultant and to design, mainly homes, across North America, including "an important project" for a family in Denver, Colorado.
In 2005, Wiens, then aged 79, became the first Western Canadian architect to be given a career retrospective, in a major travelling exhibition celebrating forty years of his work from 1955 to 1995, curated by Trevor Boddy and organized by the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, titled Telling Details: The Architecture of Clifford Wiens, displaying over 170 examples of work including architectural models, drawings and photographs. Some of the models were built specially for the exhibition by Wiens. The original event, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Saskatoon and by a contribution from the Department of Canadian Heritage Museums Assistance Program, also incorporated a one-day symposium titled Homemade Modernism: Prairie Architecture Since 1955, with artists, architects and critics describing Wiens' place in the visual arts culture of Western Canada, a panel discussion which featured architecture professors Neil Minuk and Graham Livesey, artist Sky Glabush, and heritage architect Bernard Flaman, the keynote address given by Wiens himself. There was also a performance piece by Wiens' daughter Robin Poitras of New Dance Horizons (Regina). She performed again at the 2007 venue, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, where a second symposium took place and Clifford Wiens led a tour of some of his buildings in the Regina area.
Around the time Wiens was awarded the Prix du XXe siècle (2011) for his work on the Heating and Cooling Plant, Wiens found it difficult to maintain an active practice due to illness, and began a new career in writing.
Related pursuits
Lecturing and teaching
Wiens lectured at the University of Saskatchewan (1966-1967) and at North Dakota State University (1970).
Further afield, Wiens was a visiting professor at the University of Manitoba (1968), the University of Calgary (1977), and the University of British Columbia (1985). Since winding down the Regina company and moving to Vancouver, he served as a visiting professor at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.
Over the course of his career, Wiens published brief descriptions of his projects, since collected. In 1979, he contributed an essay at the request of The Canadian Architect magazine, which had invited him and several renowned architects and educators "to debate whether 'Prairie architecture' existed".
After retirement, Wiens wrote and published several books: professional and personal memoirs, poetry and joke books, and edited collections of correspondence. "I did not start writing more seriously until the end of my architectural career. My career as an Architect required clarity in communication. A long life communicating with clients, authorities and contractors developed skill and ease in saying what I meant." Two substantive works of architectural and personal memoirs, Project By Project (selected projects from 1953-2012) and Rewind and Fast Forward, were reviewed by Steven Mannell: "Read together, these two volumes are a rich account of an architect's intertwined life and career, and provide new insight into an important body of modern Canadian architecture."
Design philosophy
Influences and aesthetics
Citing the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, Wiens has suggested that the basic tenets of good design and construction have not changed much over time: architecture is all about pleasing "eye, mind, and body", but the essential question behind the design of a building is practical: how will the space be used? "Design is solving a problem"; aesthetics is important, but an architect must still "construct something that works."
Modernism and "total focus"
For Wiens, Modernism is not historically isolated from the underlying principles of classical architecture: "the way the building works, the way the building is situated, and the way it expresses the essence of modern materials" is what makes it modernist, and good design encompasses the entirety of the building's setting, ideally making the building appear "organic", as though the building were "growing out of the ground like a tree".
Critical assessment
Kent Hurley says that Clifford Wiens was able "to distill a building to its essence and to express the distillation in simple floor plans and eye-catching forms", pointing out that Wiens is evidently preoccupied with "rigid and simple geometry" in his "formal and static" plans, but "lightens his seriousness" in the three-dimensional form itself, where he "achieves some of the memorable effects that have enhanced his reputation.""
William P. Thompson describes Wiens' work as reflecting both corporate modern architecture and the broader expressionist movement, with a distinctive approach to structure and form; an experimental International Style, but with "an expressive formal aesthetic and a respectful sensitivity to context and the surrounding landscape." A conscious reference to the ubiquitous praire horizon is Wiens' most persistent structural signature, as he himself points out in an episode of Edifice & Us:I like to create this horizon line right through the building, and I get a lot of pleasure out of doing that and you find that a lot in my buildings. There's a line going right through as if the building is floating... What belongs to the ground belongs to the ground and what belongs to the sky belongs to the sky and they all just meet on the horizon line.
Hurley emphasizes this "standard technique" in his own assessment, suggesting that Wiens wants to do two tings: "to express in built form the horizontality of his sites and also to interrupt this horizontality visually in order to make his building stand out as an 'event'"; the "floating roof structure" serves as a "flag" which Wiens frequently enhances by sinking the base of the building into the ground as in John Nugent's Studio and the Silton Chapel.
Bernard Flaman identifies similarities among such diverse works as the Heating and Cooling Plant, the Silton Chapel, and the Nugent Studio despite their "radically different" purposes and being formally and materially unique, exhibiting "strong, simple forms" and "ignoring modernism's dogmatic side and the dictum of flat roofs". All three find ways of filtering "the strong prairie sunlight" and establish "a delicate relationship with the landscape."Most striking, however, is the way each building springs from the combination of a structural and an architectural idea, beginning with a close analysis of tension and compression elements that are resolved with architectural details of startling invention.
Trevor Boddy summarizes the body of work as a bold range of buildings combining "the pragmatism and romanticism that co-exist at the heart of prairie culture." It is "widely recognized" that Wiens was one of three architects from Western Canada (the others being Douglas Cardinal and Etienne Gaboury) who were born in and worked across the region and, despite their diverse backgrounds, forged a distinctive "Prairie" regional architecture that blended First Nations and colonial traditions. Boddy asserts that Wiens stands out "even among this distinguished company for the rigour and originality of his construction details, some of them born of his training and parallel career as an industrial designer." After his death, Boddy said: "There's almost no debate that Clifford Wiens is the finest architect ever to practice in Saskatchewan."
Personal life
Wiens once said he thought of himself as being "a perfectionist in an imperfect world". An indefatigable worker, Clifford Wiens practiced design or acted as a consultant for some sixty years, and he would have gone on longer but had to stop for health reasons: "It was the cancer that assailed me that put an end to an active practice that moved me to write my memoirs that in the end turned my focus to philosophy and poetry."
Residence and pastimes
In Regina, Wiens lived in the Broderick Residence at 3248 Albert Street (1927, designed by Van Egmond and Storey) for thirty-five years. He made two changes to the property. The first was the addition of a tall, white, thirty-metre garden wall constructed across the front and halfway along the north side (Wiens was an avid gardner). The second change was to move the original attached garage to the rear property line, connecting it to the house with a "cleanly designed, glassed-in link" serving as a family room and an energy-saving swimming pool.
Wiens spoke of his love of driving in one of his many cars, particularly an early 1960s Bentley, "a memorable vehicle–especially for Regina–and one that expresses his design appreciation."
Marriage and children
Wiens married Vancouver-born Patricia Elizabeth Leigh in 1955, a graduate in Fine Arts from the University of Manitoba. Both were passionate about nature and art. An artist in her own right (pottery) and an educator, she was hired in the early 1950s by the Executive Secretary of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, Norah McCullough, to set up "a fully operational studio for the use of local communities."
Clifford and Patricia Wiens had six children and twelve grandchildren. The family visited art galleries, attended powwows, and played music at home. Robin Poitras, second of their six children and wife of Métis artist Edward Poitras, became a dancer (Regina Modern Dance Works, and later New Dance Horizons in Regina, which she co-founded in 1986), performance and installation artist. and performed a dance piece at the 2005 retrospective in Saskatoon and Regina two years later. In 2014, she performed in another piece with set pieces designed by her father. She is a recipient of the Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award. The only son, Nathan, became a naturalistic designer, best known as a craftsman of custom wood furniture pieces based in Vancouver.
Late in life, Patricia Wiens was stricken with dementia, another factor in her huband's turn to writing. She died in 2018.
Early in his career, Wiens developed "close intellectual, artistic and friendship links" with the Regina Five.
Clifford Wiens died on 26 January 2020.
Professional affiliations
Royal Architectural Institute of Canada • Fellow
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts • Associate Member
Regina Chapter of Architects • President, 1960-1969
Saskatchewan Association of Architects • President, 1970 • Life Member
Canadian Department of Public Works' Advisory Committee on Art for Public Buildings, 1974-1981
Canadian Federation of Artists Exhibition • 1964, 1969, 1970
Art Gallery of Ontario • The Architecture of Clifford Wiens, 1967
Mendel Art Gallery and other Western Canada venues • Telling Details: The Architecture of Clifford Wiens
Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 25 November 2005-January 15, 2006
Cambridge Art Galleries, Cambridge, Ontario, 29 August-5 November 2006
Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, 2 March-27 April 2007
Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 26 May-26 August 2007
Libby Leshgold Gallery, Vancouver, 4 June-13 July 2008
Select bibliography
Telling Details: The Architecture of Clifford Wiens. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 2009. Published in conjunction with the exhibition curated by Trevor Boddy.
Project By Project: Architectural/Memoirs, Vancouver: Wiens Publishing House, 2012.
Rewind and Fast Forward. Vancouver: Wiens Publishing House, 2012.
"Prairie Architecture Examined: Regionalism and Reality." The Canadian Architect 24, no. 10 (October 1979)
^ After first studying painting, agriculture, and machine tooling at three Canadian centres of higher learning.
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