Winnipeg’s Winter Just Got a Little Warmer

The Red River Mutual Trail at The Forks.
The Red River Mutual Trail at The Forks.

Winnipeg's Annual Warming Hut Competition Reveals The Winning Designs On Red River Mutual Trail.

By Jill Webb

The Red River Mutual Train in Winnipeg holds the Guinness World Record of being the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world.

Members of the Winnipeg Jets at a practice game held on the river.
Members of the Winnipeg Jets at a practice game held on the river. Max Hartshorne photo.

The trail connects through the Red and Assiniboine rivers, where locals participate in all ice-centric activities, from a skate down the trail to a fun game of ice hockey with friends.

You can only imagine how cold those who travel the trail must be, which is why the community puts on an annual competition to design warming huts.

Annual Warming Hut Competition

The Forks, located in downtown Winnipeg, is home to the Red River Mutual Trail. It provides a space for the community to meet up for a day of shopping, dining, and outdoor recreational activities.

Residing riverside, The Forks is the perfect place to showcase the warming huts for visitors to admire as they slide along the Red River Mutual Trail each year.

On Jan. 24, the Fork’s annual warming hut competition put the winning designs on display: a bison, a tree trunk, and a tower.

Warming Huts v2018: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice is a tradition to bring new, inventive art to the Winnipeg community. It's a way for local and international artists and architects to use their skills to create warming huts, small spaces used to escape from the chilly temperatures. The 2018 competition received 180 submissions.

The Golden Bison designed by Tafolla.
The Golden Bison designed by Tafolla.

Bringing Huts to Life

Since 2009, the winners arrive in Winnipeg in late January to start constructing their designs. The community looks on for a week as the creator's building process brings the huts to life.

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The three winning hut creators are from Vancouver, Estonia, and Mexico. They were selected by a panel consisting of esteemed artists and architectural experts, but have no background knowledge of the contestants beyond their design submissions.

David Alberto Arroyo Tafolla, from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico designed the winning Golden Bison.

The Golden Bison, standing at 11 feet high, has a pixel-like design of a bison, along with an opening for its guests to crawl in to warm up. The space can fit up to seven adults.

Tafolla’s entry states the Golden Bison is designed to intimidate visitors with “his presence, strength, and elegance, only to discover that it is there to protect, to shelter, to grant the impulse and recovery to overcome the adversities to come.”

Totem towering over the snowy trail.
Totem towering over the snowy trail.

Totem, a 13-foot tower design, was created by Architecture Office b210 hailing from Tallinn, Estonia.

In Totem’s description, the members of Architecture Office b210 state that Totem “provides a unique experience to climb a tower that is as narrow as the person themselves.”

According to the creators, it is representative of an individual’s journey becoming connected to another’s journey as they climb up the tower– much like the connection of shapes on a totem pole.

The trunk replicates a real tree, but with a touch of symbolism.
The trunk replicates a real tree, but with a touch of symbolism.

Camille Bianchi and Ryder Thalheimer give Canada a win with The Trunk.

The two designers from Vancouver constructed the tree trunk design to be made up layers of laminated wood. Each layer represents a ring of growth, like in a real tree, and is symbolic of “the quiet slowness of growth in the natural world,” according to Bianchi and Thalheimer’s entry.

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Honorable Mentions

An additional three huts will also be unveiled on the river trail, including local filmmaker Guy Maddin’s Temple of Lost Things, which he was invited to create as the 2018 season's guest designer.

Local filmmaker Guy Maddin's "Temple of Lost Things" combines different elements of Winnipeg's nature.
Local filmmaker Guy Maddin's "Temple of Lost Things" combines different elements of Winnipeg's nature.

Temple of Lost Things compiles the nature of the surrounding area in its design, using ice slabs from the Red River along with driftwood from the banks of the Assiniboine River.

When the warm weather comes back in the spring, the Temple of Lost Things will melt and float down the river. “No matter how great the crystal obelisks, monuments and other sturdy tributes we erect during the naive enchantment of winter, all are soon pulled down,” Maddin says in his entry.

The other two honorable mentions are #HUGMUG from Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute and Pontagon by the faculty of architecture from the University of Manitoba.

#HUGMUG is an “invitation to celebrate the moments of our lives with those around us,” according to MBCI’s entry. It is a playful design of tipped over mug spilling out a puddle of a chocolatey brown liquid, which is assumed to be coffee. Over-sized marshmallows lay atop the spill to be used as benches for those passing by.

#HUGMUG's marshmallow seats are the perfect pit stop when walking the trail.
#HUGMUG's marshmallow seats are the perfect pit stop when walking the trail.

The thirteen Grade 11 art students collaborated with their teacher, Merlin Braun, to design #HUGMUG to not only be creative but to have a purpose. Every Sunday, #HUGMUG’s complimentary hot chocolate will be paired with performances by the students of MCBI. Along with the festivities, #HUGMUG will be raising money for Haitian hurricane relief efforts.

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Pontagon unites Winnipeg's downtown area to Osborne Village.
Pontagon unites Winnipeg's downtown area to Osborne Village.

Pontagon came from an idea created when the University of Manitoba’s faculty of architecture paired up with the City of Winnipeg to design a new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians.

Pontagon is assembled with five structures along with an “ice plaza” connecting the sides of the river. The name comes from a clever pairing of words: pentagon meaning five-angled shape mashed with pont which is a Greek suffix for path.

The bridge will link the downtown area to Osborne Village, providing another opportunity to bring the community of Winnipeg together, in the literal and metaphoric sense.

Jill Webb

Jill Webb is a journalist who is always seeking out new and exciting places to write about. She is especially interested in telling stories about people from places that are typically ignored by the mainstream media. She is from Port Jefferson, NY.