Skaters, skiers and winter walkers along Winnipeg’s river trail will now have a few creative and unusual locations to snuggle up, warm up and be inspired.

The five winning designs of the Warming Huts v.2011 “Art and Architecture Competition on Ice,” announced in November, are now taking shape at The Forks, on site and along the popular skating and walking trail on the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.

Three of the five huts, chosen from 130 submissions, are from Philadelphia, New York and Tel Aviv. The other two are designed by architecture students at the University of Manitoba, and by former Winnipeggers John and Patricia Patkau, now of Vancouver.

This combination of art and architecture in such extreme conditions as Winnipeg’s arctic-like climate truly pushes the design envelope while maintaining functionality.

With construction to be completed by the end of the week, the 2011 projects will be joined on the river trail by four designs from last year’s competition.

Along the river trail, people can find refuge in The Cocoon, an ephemeral tunnel-like structure made of a flexible membrane that will be covered in water pumped from the river to create a frozen shell. It’s designed by Professor Lancelot Coar and architecture students from the University of Manitoba.

Mathieu Leger and Prof. Lancelot Coar in Cocoon

Architect James Eidse stands next to a Jellyfish hut.

Trail walkers or skater can also get cozy in Jellyfish, one of six flexible, coned-shaped huts that will be grouped together in a “school” of protection from the elements. Jellyfish (by Patkau Architects) is a metaphor for the project says architect James Eidse. ”There’s a kind of animation to it, being made simply of plywood bent into shape. Gusts of wind will make the structure shiver. So imagine sitting inside and all six are just slightly moving, it evokes the idea on being on the water.”

Chilly Winnipeggers can also take shelter Under the Covers (by Robert Tempe of Philadelphia) in a conceptual design that looks like a pinched piece of fabric on a flat surface, a bit like an igloo but with a bench and astro turf inside.

Two of the projects are not on the actual river trail, but close by on site at the Forks.

Winter Ha(y)ven at The Forks

Ha(y)ven is a 24-foot tower made of hay bales that rises from the ground as both a landmark and a massive haven of warmth. “Hay is a fairly normal substance but we wanted to make a sculpture that would be a punctuation on the ice with the vertical tower becomes a marker – a kind on minaret,” says Ben Olschner, part of the design team led by New York architect Tri Nguyen.

Warming up in the Woodpile

Woodpile is a spatial metal frame that contains stacked firewood. As visitors use the wood for the campfire inside, the woodpile decreases and gradually reveals the hut’s interior space, so as the seasons change, so does the design. The Woodpile idea explores the use of the skaters and their role in creating and changing the design and experience of the hut by constantly interacting with it, explain Tel Aviv architects Noa Biran and Roy Talmon.

An unique combination of art, architecture, fun and function, the organizers hope to make the warming huts competition an annual tradition, and an attraction as popular as Winterlude in Ottawa or Quebec’s Winter Carnival.

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