The five shelters now installed along the frozen Assiniboine River were selected by a blind jury, part of an annual competition that has in the past welcomed entries from Antoine Predock, 5468796 Architecture, Frank Gehry Partners and Patkau Architects – and has even resulted in an AZ Award win. Chosen from a pool of over 190 proposals, the installed works straddle the line between art and architecture, re-interpreting the implications of what a “hut” should be in unexpected ways.
This year’s most colourful entry is Nuzzles, a series of sculptures seemingly inspired by Koosh balls, delivered by Raw Design Inc. of Toronto. Each has a heated and lit core surrounded by multicoloured appendages that let skaters burrow into the bristles to avoid the wind, or climb atop the mounds for a better view of the river.
With his Voyageur Hut, Étienne Gaboury – an architect who, at 83, has completed more than 300 projects worldwide – honours the traditional coureurs des bois. These French-Canadian woodsmen who explored much of the country’s interior relied heavily on clothing, rather than shelter, for warmth. Thus Gaboury used the form of a giant pair of trousers – inverted, opening at the fly, and held in place with the coureurs’ traditional sash.
Skybox, presented by a group from the University of Manitoba, mimics the appearance of a typical shed on the outside, clad in charred pine planks. But, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS time machine, it’s much bigger on the inside: the interior space is mirrored, with no roof, and has one wall tilted back so that visitors can take selfies with the sky above as a backdrop.
Sheathed in brilliant yellow fabric, Windshield, by Kate Busby and Bella Totino of Vancouver, works on the same principle as a weathervane: as the wind shifts, the five-metre sail turns with its platform, protecting skaters from the wind no matter which direction it blows.
The Warming Huts are located along the Assiniboine River outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, and will remain in place as long as the ice is safe to skate on, a situation monitored closely by the Manitoba Floodway Authority. Once the MFA gives the word, organizers have 24 hours to dismantle and remove the huts.