Pix Of The Day – Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Manitoba Legislative Building is the meeting place of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba,[1] in central Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It was originally named the Manitoba Parliament Building, not Legislative.[1] The neoclassical building was completed in 1920 and stands seventy-seven meters tall (253 ft).[1] It was designed and built by Frank Worthington Simon[2] and Henry Boddington III, along with other Masons and many skilled craftsmen. Frank Simon (1862-1933) was a former student at the École des Beaux-Arts[2] which taught students neoclassical art, architecture, geometry, drawing, painting, sculpture, engraving, philosophy, astronomy, and mythology.[2] The building is famous for the Golden Boy, a gold covered bronze statue based on the style of the Roman god Mercury, or the Greek god Hermes, at the top of the cupola, or domed ceiling.

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In 1911, the Manitoba government announced an architectural competition to all architects in the British Empire, with a grand prize of $10,000 was offered for the best design for the new Manitoba Legislative Building[1]. It is the third building used by Manitoba’s legislative assembly[1], the first being the home of A.G.B. Bannatyne, while the second stood on the same grounds as the current Legislative building[1]. Of the 67 submissions, Frank Worthington Simon, a former student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, had his design chosen for the construction of the impressive structure[1][2].

Construction began in 1913, with Tyndall stone, quarried at Garson, about 20 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg[1]. On June 3, 1914 the north-east cornerstone ceremony, which was commonly done by masons, was laid by Thomas Kelly, the contractor. Due to World War I in 1914 causing a shortage of material, labour and funds, the construction of the massive building was slowed and was not ready for partial occupancy until 1919[1]. On July 15, 1920, the province’s 50th anniversary date, opening ceremonies were performed by Sir James Aikins, then Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba[1].

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statues east side of Manitoba Legislative Building

manitoba legislative building

Manitoba Legislative Building

The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba and the Lieutenant Governor form the Legislature of Manitoba, the legislative branch of government in the Canadian Province of Manitoba. Fifty-seven members are elected to this assembly in provincial general elections, all in single-member constituencies with first-past-the-post voting[8]. Originally, in 1870, there were 24 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs)[8]. As the province grew in population and size, more electoral divisions were added[8]. Winnipeg was once the third largest city in Canada, and often named Chicago of the North[8].

Manitoba’s Legislative chamber is unique among Provincial Legislatures in that the Members’ benches are grouped in a horseshoe shape[8]. The Speaker of the House’s chair is located on the south wall below the press gallery of 13 seats[8]. All debate is addressed to the Speaker, who rules on points of order and procedure and has the responsibility of maintaining order and decorum.

When the Legislature is in session, each day begins in accordance with procedures that have origins in the early beginnings of Parliamentary rule[8]. The speaker enters the Legislative Chamber followed by the clerks of the Legislative Assembly and preceded by the Sergeant-at-arms bearing Manitoba’s Mace[8].

The original desks and chairs of the Chamber are fashioned of walnut with inlaid ebony[8]. They are arranged in three tiers rising from a sunken floor in the centre of the Chamber[8]. Each desk is equipped with a microphone connected to a public address system and a recording machine used in the publication of Hansard, a verbatim report of debates and proceedings in the Legislature[8]. During question period, translators provide simultaneous translation from French to English[8]. The Chamber is also equipped for video and internet broadcasts of question period and special events such as throne and budget speeches[8]. Yet even as such changes have brought the assembly into the future, the original inkwells employed by an earlier generation of Manitoban politicians are still visible[8]. To the right of the speaker is a statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, to the left is Solon, a famous lawmaker of ancient Athens. Each statue is made of bronze and sculpted by Gardet.

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The Pool of the Black Star is the room below the Rotunda with four entrances and marked by 3 steps forming a circumference of the room. The room is a perfect circle with a radius of 27 feet (8.2 m), and the number 27 is the cube of 3 in geometry. Carved in marble on the floor is an 8 pointed star. Directly above in alignment with the Pool of the Black Star is the dome of the building on which the Golden Boy is mounted. The alignment of the two markers is one degree off the longitudinal centre of Canada (N 49° 46.054 W 096° 48.583). The Black Star is said to represent the underworld of Ishtar and the Golden Boy, Hermes, is the messenger of the Heavens. The design of the building allows sounds and harmonics from all over the building to be caught, distorted, and magnified in the circular room at the star. The design of the Pool is so perfect that when you stand at the centre of the star and speak you can hear your own echo returning to you from all directions equally and if you whistle up to the golden boy a perfect harmonic 5th is created (the sound of Hermes).[citation needed]

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In the east corridor of the Manitoba Legislative Building is the Lieutenant-Governor’s Reception Room. This finely decorated room is used by the Lieutenant-Governor on state occasions to receive visiting royalty and foreign dignitaries and general public is barred from entry. During such events, scarlet-coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police are posted on either side of the door and military aides assist the Lieutenant-Governor with official duties. The room is panelled in black American walnut inlaid with ebony, and decorated with hand-carved ornaments around the ceiling and along the four corner pillars. Pictures of sovereigns grace the walls and a French gilt chandelier hangs from the ceiling. The floor features a carpet specially hand-woven in Donegal, Ireland. Facing across from each other on the north and south wall are two elaborate mirrors in gilt frames. The room measures 24 feet (7.3 m) in both directions. Directly above the Lieutenant-Governor’s Reception Room are the two male warriors (War), one native in full eagle feathered head dress, and one Roman, guarding the representation of the Ark of the Covenant.

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Within the main entrance is the Grand Staircase. This is a perfectly square room measuring 66.6 feet (20.3 m) on each side, which is meant to represent the numerological number 666, which are all the numbers added from one to 36, which is the square of 6, in mathematics, geometry, and arithmetic. The stair case is composed of three flights of steps each with 13 steps.[6] The steps are brown-veined Carrara marble,[6] the finest marble in the world. Flanking the steps are life size North American bison.[6] Made of solid bronze,[6] they were modelled by Georges Gardet, creator of the Golden Boy[4], and cast at the Roman Bronze Works in New York City.[6] Each bison weighs 2,268 kilograms (2½ tons).[6] Legend has it that to install the bison safely without damaging the marble floors, the main entrance was flooded and left to freeze. Both bison were then placed on enormous slabs of ice cut from the Assiniboine River, and safely slid into the building.[6] The bison are one example of apotropaic icons in the Grand Staircase.

The bison, a symbol of the Province of Manitoba, are meant to represent the sacred bulls which guard temple entrances. Above the south entrance to the legislature lobby is the Medusa‘s head, and over the north entrance facing Medusa is the bust of Athena, Greek goddess of war, embodiment of democracy and also the protector of cities. Around the perimeter of the room are 14 lion heads and 8 cattle skulls at the edge of the ceiling. Around the second floor balcony, lamps rise from the balustrades,[6] each containing 13 bulbs, 12 around 1 (Twelve Apostles and Jesus). The third floor facing the Grand Staircase is supported by two pairs of columns, reproductions of the caryatids,[6] sculpted female figures serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar. Each figure holds a scroll and key. The figures located on the third floor were sculpted by the Piccirilli Brothers of New York,[6] using models prepared by Albert Hodge of London, England. The ceiling is made of a glass atrium to allow natural sunlight to illuminate the room.[6]

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The antechamber at the head of the grand staircase provides a formal approach to the legislative chamber[7]. 8 Corinthian columns rise from the floor to the cornice surrounding the base of the dome[7]. Between each pair of columns are busts of Hermes. The floor of the dome rotunda is Tennessee marble bordered with black Vermont and verde antique marble[7]. The height to the eye of the dome is 87 feet (27 m) and the diameter is 54 feet (16 m). Within the dome above are four panels containing 5 gold rosettes. In the centre of the Rotunda is an Italian marble balustrade 13 feet (4.0 m) across surrounding the Pool of the Black Star on the floor of the level below, a representation of the altars of the ancient Greeks. The diameter of the circle above the balustrade is also 13 feet (4.0 m), and both align with the Golden Boy above these. Above the doorway to the Manitoba Assembly is a mural by Frank Brangwyn depicting World War I[7]. In the centre of the painting is a man in tattered rags with his left chest and arm exposed, being helped along by a comrade. Above the men are a faint depiction of The Madonna and child.

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