May 2, 2024 | Community, Featured Post, Projects
May 2, 2024
Community, Featured Post, Projects
Celebrating 70 Years of Design Excellence
LM-ESP Firm Founders, Mel Michener and Gerald Libling.

LM Architectural Group | Environmental Space Planning (LM-ESP) is celebrating its 70th anniversary of delivering client-centered architecture and interior design. As one of the longest standing, locally based design practices in Winnipeg, the firm continues to grow its impact in the industry today.

“LM-ESP’s 70th anniversary is an exciting milestone and a chance to reflect on the firm’s past, present and future,” said David Kressock, LM-ESP Managing Partner. “Many dedicated team members, clients and industry partners have been instrumental in the firm’s success over the years, helping us to achieve our mission of enhancing quality of life through design excellence.”

Located in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, LM-ESP is a full-service architecture and interior design firm specializing in eight design sectors – healthcare, education, civic, recreation, workplace, multi-family residential, commercial, and retail and hospitality. Since opening its doors, it has earned and maintained its reputation as a widely trusted, nationally recognized design practice.

Kicking off its 70th year, LM-ESP is currently leading the design teams for several of the largest infrastructure investments in Manitoba, such as the new, all-electric Neepawa Health Centre or the largest new high school facility to be designed and built in the Province in decades, coming to northwest Winnipeg. The firm’s also been recognized for its sustainable and innovative design approach, including receiving a 2023 Canadian Green Building Award, two BOMA Manitoba Awards and two Masi Design Awards over the past two years.

LM-ESP’s position as an industry leader today is supported by its 70-year design legacy of successfully delivering projects of all sizes across North America, with an intentional focus on Manitoba. This journey began in 1954, when two friends and architects shared a bold vision for what a young, local firm could accomplish.

The Beginning of the Practice

Founded in 1954 by Gerald Libling and Mel Michener as Libling Michener & Associates, the firm’s design aspirations were ambitious from day one. The success of a major addition to the Marlborough Hotel, including the design of the Skyview Ballroom – one of the firm’s first projects – provided immediate recognition. Early successes were followed by three projects being recognized with Massey Medals of Excellence in 1961, the first Winnipeg architectural practice to be so honoured.

Many buildings the firm designed in this era came to be revered examples of architectural styles and techniques and remain vibrant community assets today. A few examples include Executive House, Grosvenor House, St. John Brebeuf Church, the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education Building, St. Paul’s High School, and the Manitoba Medical Services Building.

The Evolution of the Work

By 1970, clients sought out the firm for its architectural and interior design services, prompting the launch of its designated interior design branch – Environmental Space Planning (ESP). The same year, the firm’s name changed to The LM Architectural Group and a series of milestone projects followed soon after.

Opening in 1971, Victoria General Hospital marked the first healthcare facility the firm designed from the ground up. Shortly after, the firm worked on what would be one of the largest downtown developments in Winnipeg history at the time – Lakeview Square – consisting of the Holiday Inn, adjacent Holiday Inn Towers, several office buildings, Japanese gardens, and above and below ground tie-ins to the downtown community. LM-ESP collaborated on the design of the original Winnipeg Convention Centre, which opened in 1975. These two projects changed the fabric of downtown Winnipeg long-term.

Partnerships That Last

Many of the firm’s earliest partnerships, such as those with the Winnipeg Convention Centre, Victoria Hospital, and the University of Manitoba, continue to this day. This work includes LM-ESP being selected to lead the design of the major RBC Convention Centre expansion in 2017, to designing several notable buildings on the U of M campus, including the award-winning ARTlab, which achieved the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture in 2016.

Other client partnerships took the firm on exciting journeys well beyond Manitoba. LM-ESP designed more than two dozen Elephant and Castle Pubs across North America, with the first one housed inside Winnipeg’s downtown Holiday Inn. The firm assisted in Long & McQuade music stores expansion across the country and has been working with Safeway/Sobeys since the 90s updating and building new stores throughout Western Canada.

“Excellent client service and offering integrated architecture and interior design has always been what our firm is known for and what we focus on fostering today,” said Mike Isbister, LM-ESP firm Principal. “We’ve seen firsthand how valuable it is to build strong relationships with our clients, and each project is a chance to grow positive partnerships across diverse sectors.”

A Bright Future

Looking to the next chapter, LM-ESP is focused on industry and community leadership. Sustainable design is a global priority, which LM-ESP actively approaches from a social, economic, and environmental perspective. Many LM-ESP-led projects have achieved LEED Gold and Silver Certification, Green Globes Certification, and other leading sustainable design benchmarks, and a few team members in-house are pursuing Passive House Accreditation to grow energy efficiency strategies and further minimize environmental impact. Prioritizing wellness-focused spaces that are inclusive to all will remain at the forefront of the firm’s approach.

As a Manitoba business, LM-ESP is committed to community involvement. The firm is a partner to the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord, supports the next generation of leaders with scholarships,internships, and sponsorships, and works to attract and retain a diverse staff makeup that enhances the impact of its work in the real-world. LM-ESP’s growing team of 46 professionals continue to build upon the many partnerships and projects linked to the firm, while embracing the priorities to be leaders in the future.



Bill and Helen Norrie Library in Winnipeg: 2023 Canadian Green Building Award recipient. Photo by Lindsay Reid.

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