Popular warming huts offer beauty, wonder and protection in wintry Winnipeg

Following a similar project last winter on Winnipeg’s river trail, five new huts were unveiled as part of the 2011 “Art and Architecture Competition on Ice.” The idea of the warming huts was borne from a desire to encourage outdoor activity and enjoyment in Winnipeg’s extreme winter climate.

The huts were completed at the Forks and along the popular skating and walking trail on the frozen Assiniboine and Red Rivers in early February, and feature three winners chosen from an open design competition that welcomed 130 submissions from countries as far away as Serbia, Spain and Portugal. The winning designs, while difficult for the jury to choose, were all “compelling,” says Winnipeg architect Peter Hargraves, co-creator of the competition.

The three winners selected from the competition are: Under the Covers by Philadephia architect Robert B. Trempe Jr.; Ha(y)ven by a New York team of architects led by Tri Nguyen; and Woodpile, by Tel Aviv architects Noa Biran and Roy Talmon. The two other designs solicited from outside the competition are: Jellyfish by Patkau Architects of Vancouver, and Cocoon, a student submission from the University of Manitoba, led by Professor Lancelot Coar. These five new huts will be joined by four huts from last year’s event that were reconstructed for 2011.

Under the Covers is a conceptual design that derives from the idea of splitting and peeling pre-existing fabric. Shaped like an igloo, it features a wood bench and AstroTurf in the interior. Ha(y)ven is a 60-foot tower made of hay bales that rises from the Assiniboine River to create not only shelter but a unique landmark. The Woodpile hut involves a 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 will gradually be revealed and exposed. Cocoon, the student submission, is an ephemeral structure made of a flexible membrane, onto which river water will be pumped and sprayed, freezing it and creating a stiffened carapace. And the Patkaus’ Jellyfish huts are beautifully sculptural wood shells that elevate form beyond mere function. The six flexible conical huts are grouped together in a “school” to offer protection from the elements. The name is a metaphor for the project, according to Patkau team member 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.”

For details on the huts, please visit www.warminghuts.com/v2011.html.