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Very cool: Warming-hut designs win big at The Forks

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WARMING up has never looked so cool.

The quintet of winners in The Forks's annual warming-hut competition are taking shape and should be in place and fully operational by the weekend along the newly opened river trail.

Three huts were chosen from an open design competition with the winning designs coming from the Czech Republic, Norway and New York. A fourth was chosen from student submissions at the University of Manitoba while the fifth was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.

Paul Jordan, chief operational officer at The Forks, said the 31/2 kilometres of skating trails are open along the Red River from The Forks to Churchill High School.

Here's a sneak peek at the fab five:


-- HOT HUT: You would expect 1,350 kilograms of foam to be warm but it's not every day you'd see it out in the open.

That's precisely why Eduardo Aquino, a professor in the U of M's department of architecture, didn't conceal it. The 18 students who worked on the project carved out large pieces of foam where skaters could take a load off and get out of the wind.

"Why not celebrate the foam? We wanted to play on the idea of being on the inside of the outside," he said.

The project, which cost about $12,000 to make, was then coated in red. Why red?

"Red is the hottest colour," said Karen Shanski, an architect and instructor in the department.


-- ROPE PAVILION: There's no way Kevin Erickson's hut isn't going to be wrapped up by Friday.

That's the day of the old-time pond hockey game -- forward passes aren't allowed, for example -- between a Czech design team and its film crew from Slovakia and the rest of the teams.

"There's no way I'm going to miss that," said the principal at KNE Studio in New York and a professor at the University of Illinois.

His hut is formed by an intricate wooden skeleton through which 1,800 metres of rope are wound.

"That blocks enough wind and it lets in light. You don't feel trapped," he said. "I was fascinated by rope as a material. When you try to use it in an unconventional way, you find embedded surprises."


-- ICE PILLOWS: The Czech team laid an egg on the river and couldn't be happier.

Using a platform, a blower, a pump, a giant balloon and river water, the architects from the Mjork firm have created a giant ice egg. The blower sprinkles the water over the balloon and a few hours later, the final product has you wondering when the mother dinosaur is coming back.

There's a hole in one side to enter the egg.

And more eggs are coming, said senior architect Pavel Nalezeny. He's going to show a group from the U of M how it's done and they're going to add to the collection.


-- FIVE-HOLE: The irony of having to import ice to Winnipeg in the middle of winter wasn't lost on Sam Gehry.

The son of architect Frank Gehry and a designer in his own right is building a hut out of large blocks of ice on the Assiniboine River. Some of the ice was sourced locally -- it has to have a minimum amount of air and a maximum amount of clarity -- but the rest came from Montreal.

"That's part of the process. It's fun," he said with a laugh. "It's an igloo idea. We're from southern California, what do we know about ice?"

His team is learning quickly as they've had to figure out what can and can't be done in certain temperatures.

He's outfitted from head to toe in winter gear. All bought in Los Angeles, of course.

"I walked in to the outdoors store and asked, 'Is there a section for central Canada?' " he said.


-- WIND CATCHER: Tina Soli and Luca Roncoroni have a friend's honeymoon in Canada to thank for their mid-winter trip to Winnipeg.

The honeymooners read about the warming-hut competition in the newspaper and thought they might be interested in it, considering they build hotels and bars out of ice in Norway.

Their hut includes a tunnel, shaped like a trumpet, through which the wind blows, Skaters can get out of wind underneath and to the sides of the tunnel.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2012 B1

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