Warm welcome

Red River will host huts from around the world

As the New Year rolls in, architects chosen from different parts of the world are beginning construction on their custom warming hut designs.

Visitors who make their way to The Forks to walk, skate or go sledding on land or on soon-to-be-frozen Red and Assiniboine Rivers can catch a break from the piercing winds inside the warming huts. 

Though milder temperatures have left the rivers in more of a liquid state than skaters might prefer, this hasn’t affected the warming hut project just yet. “It’s not uncommon for the river trail not to be open at this time,” Chelsea Thomson, marketing and communications manager for The Forks, says. 

“The warming huts are built on land and then moved down to the river trail, usually the last weekend in January, so we’re still hoping to proceed with that plan.”

In 2009, The Forks requested warming hut designs for the Red River Mutual Trail and in 2010, people were able to start using the huts. 

A competition that started out local now has entries from around the world. This year, there will be seven new warming huts on the trail, as well as warming huts from previous years.

Huts from Russia, California, Nebraska, Nunavut and Manitoba will be on site. 

Versatile is one of the best ways to describe the warming huts. Each hut offers a different kind of experience, both visually and texturally. Some of the warming huts are far from warm, lacking four walls or a roof on top, in certain cases. 

This year’s winning warming hut designs are named Temple, Ice Maze, and Shelterbelt. In the Light of the Kudluk, a collaboration with 2014 Polaris Music Prize winner Tanya Tagaq, joins in by invitation. Rounding out the lineup for 2016 are additional huts Basket, Fabrigami and Frame. 

Project leader of the Fabrigami hut, Lancelot Coar, is an associate professor from the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba (U of M). Coar and his project partners, Kim Wiese and Jason Hare, aim to build a temporary warming hut on the river trail this year.

The plan is to build Fabrigami next to the lighthouse in January with help from 16 students from various educational backgrounds at U of M; Caitlin Mueller, an assistant professor from the Digital Structures Research Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Lars De Laet from Vrije University in Brussels.

Coar describes the construction of Fabrigami as having two main architectural components.

“The structure is one large cable net – it’s like a spider web that grabs a hold of the lighthouse at The Forks – and then it reaches out and grabs some of the posts on the pier. We will anchor fabric into the ice and a steel cable system with that, (then) pull up to the steel cable above,” Coar explains. 

“We’re using the potential height of the distance between the lighthouse and the shoreline to create architecture to pull it up to shape. It’s kind of like creating a marionette.” 

This year, more than 160 applicants submitted designs to the warming hut competition. 

“(The judges) don’t look at who they are or where they’re from. They just look at the design itself,” Thomson says.

Projects will be available for the public to enjoy and inspect on land by Jan. 29, after which – weather permitting – they will be moved onto the rivers.

For more information on the new warming huts, visit warminghuts.com. To find out when the Red River Mutual Trail is open to the public, visit theforks.com.

Published in Volume 70, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 7, 2016)

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