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Pool noodles wouldn't normally be considered a building material, but the designers of a unique warming hut used 2,700 of the colourful foam sticks to show it can be done.
It was one of five huts unveiled Friday as part of the kickoff to Warming Huts: An Art and Architecture Competition on Ice at The Forks. The new huts will join 12 other huts from previous years.
The winning designs required a combination of an art and architectural component, and they have to push the envelope design-wise, explained Clare MacKay, vice-president of marketing and communications at The Forks.
"How can we take what is a basic structure of a warming hut and elevate it to something that's pretty spectacular?" said MacKay.
This year, the open competition that invites innovative designs received nearly 200 submissions from countries including Russia, Norway and Sweden. It is the first time the jury, which judged the submissions "blindly" without knowing the identity of the designers, chose all three winning designs from Canadian teams, with two coming from Toronto and one from Vancouver. A fourth hut was chosen from student submissions at the University of Manitoba. A fifth hut was designed by invitation to renowned Manitoba artist and architect Étienne Gaboury.
"Its nice to have a competition that's small-scale, but that doesn't just stay as a conceptual idea," said David Colussi, a member of the so-called Red Blanket team from WorkShop Architecture in Toronto.
Their design is composed of red, felted wool panels, held in place by a rod at the top and hung in two parallel lines from a bridge. Cold skaters are invited to wrap themselves in these immense blankets, huddle in groups, play and be social.
The only western Canadians in the competition are Kate Busby and Bella Totino, a mother-daughter duo who are called the Windshield team. Their structure is a yellow, five-metre-tall wind vane placed on a circular, rotating steel base. The light frame shields skaters from the wind by rotating according to the wind pattern. The centre column serves as both a handhold and a source of heat and light. The design is based on the tectonics of the early birch-bark canoes.
"It's a very monochromatic world in the winter and so we thought, 'let's use the inspiration of the canoe, use the inspiration of the birch-bark pattern and then zap it up with some great colours,' " said designer Totino.
The other winning design is Skybox, chosen from a separate University of Manitoba competition. It was designed by third-year U of M architecture students Matt Hagen, Ryan Lewis and Evan Taylor. The students explained they wanted to create a piece that was photogenic and would embrace social media.
Their warming hut creates the illusion skaters are sitting among the winter skies through the use of purposefully placed reflective material in its interior. Each time a visitor uploads an image with the tagline #SKYBOX, the Internet is used as a platform to promote the Red River Mutual Trail.
Designed by Gaboury, the Voyageur Hut is inverted pants and sash, suspended by two helium-filled balloons; the lower one, a voyageur carrying a canoe, and the upper one, a floral form that can be seen from afar.
"We invite all Manitobans to skate the trails this winter, but to also stop, pause and appreciate the innovation, creativity and artistry," said Lee McCormick, the vice-president of the Manitoba Association of Architects.