Warming Huts for a weird winter

Mjölk's Polar Hen
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University of Manitoba's Hothut
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Luca Roncoroni and Tina Soli's Wind Catcher
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Frank Gehry's Five Points
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Hut by the Kelvin High School students
Mjölk's Polar Hen
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The Warming Huts competition, now in its third year, invited winning architects from Drøbak in Norway, Liberec in the Czech Republic and New York – not to mention special guest Frank Gehry – to create innovative huts along Winnipeg’s Assiniboine river trail. The only thing that got in the way: unseasonably warm temperatures.

Sponsored in part by the Manitoba Association of Architects, the warming huts have been erected along the river trail. Each of the five teams traveled to Winnipeg at the end of January to construct them, but record above-average temperatures created challenges.

Called “Five-Points,” Gehry’s small piece of architecture bore his signature sculptural style. Composed of chiseled, transparent blocks of ice, the hut was internally clad in Douglas fir. As with many of the huts, Five-Points shone brightest at night, thanks to a central fire pit. But his design fell victim to the weather, and was dismantled last week as the blocks began to melt.

Mjolk from the Czech Republic had to revise its design due to the warm weather before even getting started. Their original proposal, 5 Ice Pillow, would have employed five structured balloons to form a flower. But their surviving structure, which they dubbed “Polar Hen,” stands out nonetheless. Using an elaborate contraption, they sprayed river water over a giant inflated balloon, which, when removed, left behind an ovoid hut made entirely of ice.

Rope Pavilion, designed by New York’s Kevin Erickson and Allison Warren, has a similar dome shape to “Polar Hen,” but makes use of a completely different material. Wrapped around a birch wood frame, 1,800 metres of rope form a structure that holds both textural and functional interest. Collecting snow, the rope exterior further embeds the hut in the wintry site.

In complete contrast, “Hothut,” by students of the University of Manitoba‘s department of architecture, is carved from a massive block of high-density foam and painted red. The form doesn’t blend into the environment, but was designed to foster interaction between people. Various “body spaces” allow visitors to sit, stand, lean or otherwise engage with the structure.

In a similar vain, “Wind Catcher” from Luca Roncoroni and Tina Soli of Norway, was designed to be interactive. Its large hole functions as a frame, allowing visitors to photograph themselves or the landscape, and as a horn, amplifying the wind.

The new huts have been joined on the river trail by a latest hut built by students at a local high school, plus six of the winning designs from previous years. They will be up through March.

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