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February 17, 2010

Architecture to warm you in ‘Winterpeg’

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Travellers visiting Winnipeg, Manitoba this winter will have the chance to see an innovative showcase featuring what the Canadian Tourism Commission describes as five ‘architectural marvels’. The display comprises a number of structures that have been opened along the Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail at the Forks in Winnipeg. The trail is the longest skating trail in the world and stretches for miles along the Assiniboine River.

Visitors will be able to see unusual huts that resemble everything from a piece of crumpled aluminium foil to a giant orange orb suspended above the frozen river. As well as celebrating the inspirations of architects and artists, the heated structures will allow visitors to sit down and warm up during their walk along the river trail.

Peter Hargreaves of Sputnik Architecture, one of the organisers, said: ‘This event is really intended to showcase art and architecture in a setting that is otherwise reserved for the mundane and practical. ‘It’s an intentional exploration of human experiences. In the same way we feel cold and warmth, these huts are meant to evoke feelings and create dialogue.’

Five teams, each consisting of architects paired with an artist or landscape design firm, have each received $9,000 to design and construct a warming hut. Paul Jordan, chief operating officer at The Forks, expects Winnipeg skaters to find their own ways to generate heat in the huts.

Antoine Predock teamed up with local landscape architecture firm Scatliff+Miller+Murray on a hut called Apparition. The igloo-like shelter is described as “a haunting, ambiguous object” with inviting, solar-fuelled lighting. In the design drawings, it resembles crumpled aluminum foil. It appears skaters may have to crouch or crawl to enter it.

Sputnik Architecture worked with artist Jon Pylypchuk on a hut entitled CARCASS, inspired by decaying barns and made of wood, aluminum and polycarbonate. Architect Richard Kroeker and artist Neil Forrest are created Fir Hut, which uses the aboriginal technique of thatched balsam fir, but also incorporates the decidely non-traditional pop cans. Artist Ewa Tarsia with 5468796 Architecture Inc. produced Sunspot, a large orb thathangs from The Forks Historic Rail Bridge. Its frame will hover just above the frozen river and be sprayed with coloured water to form a thin shell of ice.

“You can stop and warm up, you can change your skates, or you can do whatever you want “” which often happens,” he said with a laugh. “We call them “˜the love shacks’ for a reason.” The exposition is being touted as a Canadian first.”We see this becoming an annual event that eventually morphs into a competition,” Jordan said.

This year’s huts were commissioned, but in future years a call will go out for entries in the hope of generating international interest. Each year’s warming huts will be saved and reused, so the collection will grow.

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