Winnipeg’s extreme winter climate is the perfect setting for an architectural competition involving warming huts. As a follow up to a similar project last winter on the city’s river trail, today five new huts were unveiled as part of the 2011 “Art and Architecture Competition on Ice.”

The warm and winning designs, to be built in January, have put Winnipeg on the international map – and not just the weather map. Three of the five huts, chosen from an open design competition of 130 submissions, are from Philadelphia, New York and Tel Aviv, and were among entries received from as far away as Serbia, Spain and Portugal. The other two designs are from a student submission at the University of Manitoba, and from invited architects John and Patricia Patkau from Vancouver.

The three winning designs, while difficult for the jury to choose, were all “compelling” says Winnipeg architect Peter Hargraves, co-creator of the competition. Or as Paul Jordan, Chief Operating Officer of The Forks, put it: “These designs will just blow people’s minds once they’re built. They truly push the design envelope while being true to the need for functionality.”

So what combo of art and architechture will grace Winnipeg’s river trail this year?

The three winning projects are called Under the Covers (Philadelphia architect Robert B. Trempe Jr.); Ha(y)ven (New York team of architects led by Tri Nguyen); and WOODPILE (Tel Aviv architects Noa Biran and Roy Talmon).

Under the Covers is a conceptual design that comes from the idea of splitting and peeling pre-existing fabric. It will have a wood bench and astro turf in the interior with the exterior shell shaped like an igloo.

Ha(y)ven will be a 60-foot tower made of hay bales that will rise from the Assiniboine River as a landmark and a unique shelter.

Hay bales against a blue sky

The WOODPILE hut will involve a spatial metal frame that contains stacked firewood. As visitors are invited to use the wood for the campfire inside, the woodpile will be reduced and the hut’s interior space gradually revealed and exposed.

Graphic showing people and a fire

Cocoon, by the U of M students, will be an ephemeral structure made of a flexible membrane, onto which river water will be pumped and sprayed, freezing it and creating a stiffened body on the frame it covers.

And lastly, from Vancouver’s Patkau Architects will be a surprise design called Jellyfish. That warming hut is a wait and see.

All in all, the Warming Huts v.2011, Art and Architecture Competition on Ice is a fitting and exciting project for our icy city… and part of what makes Winnipeg the arts and cultural capital of Canada.

Gotta love Winnipeg’s arts vibe, and its architectural creativity.

Author's Bio: 

I’m a girl from the Canadian prairies who likes wide-open spaces, fresh ideas, a great story, and inspiring environments, buildings and art of all kinds. I have written feature stories about architecture, urban, rural and lakeside living, cool neighbourhoods, and everything from business to pleasure (tourism and travel).

I believe that powerful writing, too, can link the artistic with the practical.

My feature writing has appeared in: Ottawa Citizen, Winnipeg Free Press, The Western Producer, The Cottager, Manitoba Business Magazine, Manitoba’s Northern Experience, Home & City, Manitoba Gardener, Ciao and up! (WestJet’s magazine).

Barbara Edie