The results are in and the winning designs have been skidded into place. Skaters and hikers along Winnipeg’s frozen Assiniboine and Red Rivers, the 6.6 kilometer River Trail, can now see what the fuss was all about and warm themselves up in the process. Winnipeg’s annual Warming Hut Contest attracted over 100 entries this year. The challenge? To create a piece of public art that is creative, provides shelter and is structurally sound. Past entries have included a pavilion made out of rope and a translucent sphere coated in a skin of ice and coloured water.
Created in 2010, the international competition attracts both newbies and starchitects. In 2010 headliner Antoine Predock submitted a shelter made out of wood and aluminum. Frank Gehry’s 2012 asymmetrical windbreak was made out of blocks of ice, arranged askew of course. This year’s 100 + projects were whittled down to five by an international panel of architects, professors and an engineer. The prize? Being brought to Winnipeg to build their castles in minus 25 degree temperatures, all expenses paid mind you, and bragging rights.
This year’s standouts include Hygge House, a whimsical interpretation of the classic Canadian cabin, painted in fluorescent yellow, complete with antlers on the wall, utilitarian furniture and a wood-burning stove from local Winnipeg firms Plain Projects, Urbanink and Pike Projects. Smokehouse is a simple structure constructed around an interior fire pit from American architects aamodt/plum and Woolhaus from New York landscape architect Myung Kweon Park invites the visitor to walk through folds of felt. Weave Wave from the University of Manitoba School of Architecture is a 100 metre wooden snake of yarn and fabric that looks like a spider’s web in spots and Atelier Big City from Montreal has contributed an open space covered in an industrial building product billed as “a dance club on ice.”
The huts will remain in place for a few more weeks when they will be moved, stored and reassembled next year – if they’re still intact. There were 15 huts on the ice this year counting previous entries. Unfortunately, Frank Gehry’s 2012 contribution wasn’t among them. A crowd favorite it fell victim to the weather and popularity and his ice block shelter simply melted away.