Down, Set… HUT! Ice Capades break Grey Cup Fever

With the Grey Cup buzz shifting from a roar to a gentle headache, Winnipeggers can turn their attention to an upcoming ice capade – also known as the annual Warming Huts: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice.

Warming Huts is an open competition held annually at the Forks since 2009.  Originally pitched by professors at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture, the competition is endorsed by the Manitoba Association of Architects and supported by the Canadian Council for the Arts.

The competition is a local news darling but also draws international attention, including a New York Times article last year.  Our popularity is paying off.  This year saw more than 160 entries submitted from countries around the world, including Estonia, Iran, India and Bangladesh.

A top-notch blind jury comprised of Winnipeg art and architecture experts judged all of the submissions and, just last week, selected the winning designs that “push the envelope of design, craft and art”.

And the winners are…

FIRST PLACE ♥ Temple by Kirill Bair and Daria Lisitsyna (Moscow, Russia)

Tall and topical, Temple is a greek temple made from oil drums and recycled material that echoes the buzz and clicks of its pipes and parts as they knock against themselves in the winter breeze.  Its cool, almost frigid, description — “form without content, a place of worship connected to nothing but the wind” — fits wonderfully with the desolate breezes winding along our beautiful river terrain.

SECOND PLACE ♥ Shelterbelt by Robert B. Trempe Jr. (Nebraska, USA)

Shelterbelt is an homage to the prairie winter, using steel rebar to mirror the form and movement of the trees and tall grasses that characterize a winter landscape.

Wind and visitors will stir the rebar and cause it to collide, mimicking the rustle of movement through winter-abandoned fields and forests.


THIRD PLACE ♥ Ice Maze by Andreas Mede (California, USA)

California may not know winter, but they know how to have a good time.  Ice Maze is focused on the family, keeping kids busy and entertained as they skate and slide around its ice block walls and giving parents a five minute reprieve to sip their coffee under prairie blue skies.


OTHER selections included…

♥ Basket by Faculty of Architecture Partner Program (Winnipeg, MB)

The University of Manitoba Architecture Partner Program puts the “warm” in “warming huts”, using sustainable heat paneling, a large south-facing window, photo voltaic lighting and insulation of its intertwined rope walls.


Basket lets you climb in and get carried away — with a design that looks like it sounds and a facade that playfully encourages visitors to use its walls for lost mittens and other winter accessories found along the Red River Mutual Trail.


Fabrigami by University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture (Winnipeg, MB)

Put simply, this design is a giant fabric origami structure covered in a thin skin of ice.  What makes this design special is that it directly participates with Winnipeg’s local landscape and climate — using river water to create the ice coat and having its final shape depend on how quickly the water freezes.

FabrigamiThe result is an interesting combination of an ancient Japanese art with a distinctly local feel.


In the Light of the Kudluk by Sputnik Architecture and Tanya Tagaq (WInnipeg, mb)

Local firm Sputnik Architecture paired up with Nunavut throat singer and 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner Tanya Tugaq to create In the Light of the Kudluk.  The design includes four snow shelters surrounded by, you guessed it, more snow.  TanyaOnce the snow hardens, the structures will be removed leaving an impression of a creature from the traditions of Canada’s Northern people.  The spring thaw will later return the entire project from whence it came.

♥ Frame by RAW: Almond and Et Cetera Projects (Winnipeg, MB)

Frame is the design for the much-loved, annual outdoor Framepop-up dining hut* that combines the creativity of Mandel Hitzer (Deer + Almond), Joe Kalturnyk and Winnipeg’s Et Cetera Projects. Frame pulls visitors into the riverbank landscape as they move toward the entrance, letting them catch a glimpse into the kitchen, dining area, and other elements of the site while settling in to enjoy a warm meal amongst the laughs of their neighbours and the sounds of dinner being prepared.  Don’t miss it.  Tickets go on sale soon!


Competition winners travel to Winnipeg to begin construction on their warming hut at the end of January.  Completed warming huts are then brought out to the frozen Red River Mutual Trail for visitors to enjoy throughout the winter season.

Down, Set… HUT! Ice Capades break Grey Cup Fever

5 Lessons for Making Cold Cities Even Cooler…es-even-cooler/Winter arrived in Winnipeg this weekend and the new season has changed more than the weather, it’s changed the city — the way it looks, the way it functions, and the way we interact with it.

Winter is defined by most Winnipeggers as the unpleasant obstacle standing between us and summer — or more specifically — the four-to-five month dead zone between November and March where complaining passes for conversation and activities range from drying wet socks to purchasing chap stick.

The new season has changed more than the weather, it’s changed the city — the way it looks, the way it functions, and the way we interact with it.

Although there is no question winter is uncomfortable, it is also a fundamental part of living here.  If we can accept that, we are better able to recognize the incredible efforts and activities that have sprung up in recent years and that are transforming what has traditionally been understood as our greatness weakness into a very real strength.

Activities like:

to name a few.

These initiatives reflect a growing interest in embracing, not escaping, winter.   As Anton Chekhov once said: “People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.…es-even-cooler/ ‎

We’re not alone in feeling good about being so chill.  The top seven states in the 2014 Gallup Healthways Well-being Index enjoy long stretches of real winter weather and there is a growing list of cities having fun in the cold, both in Canada and abroad.

how do we create cool winter events for a cold winter city?  


The Project for Public Spaces* article, “Winter Cities Show Cold Weather Can Be Cool”, sets out the following lessons:

Make it Last

Winter events should last preferably more than a week and are best tied to an ongoing winter activity, like skating or sledding.  Singing carols around a lit tree is a pleasant activity, but has a much shorter shelf life and smaller demographic than a skating rink with a great playlist.  To create a cumulative effect, winter events and activities should overlap where possible and span the entire 4 to 5 month period.

Bundle it up

Activities and events should be combined, allowing smaller events to create a larger impact and enticing visitors to make a day of it.  The warming huts competition at the Forks and Red River Mutual Trail is a great example of this, providing visitors with a skating rink, walking path, wood fire shack, indoor market, and public art display all in one place.

Keep it Local

Local elements are the key to a great looking city, as well as meaningful winter activities.  Local elements encourage citizens to participate by highlighting what is unique about the city, providing warm food and drink, and showcasing locally made items. Festival du Voyageur is a great example.

Light it

The right lighting makes all the difference, creating ambience and “the feeling that winter activities and events are much bigger than they really are”.

Manage it

Management is essential. Without management of a city’s spaces, no winter activities would occur. Competent and ambitious management leads to great results.

*Project for Public Spaces is an incredible
non-profit planning, design and educational organization
that aims to transform public space through rejuvenation, capitalizing on
local assets, and serving common needs. PFPS was founded in 1975 to
expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, author of the insightful and
essential book “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” and its 55-minute
companion film.  Check out their list of projects here.

Whether it’s large local events bringing people together and creating public spaces with impact – or the fact that only my backyard stands between me and a world of crunchy, winding, wind-sheltered paths along the Seine River – I think there are plenty of reasons to look forward to this new season in our city.

The question is how to create more of them.

With four months to fill with winter fun, I would love to hear from you.

What is your favourite thing about Winnipeg’s winter? 

Any recommendations or secret spots to check out? 

Ideas for community events Winnipeg could add to its annual calendar?

5 Lessons for Making Cold Cities Even Cooler