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Carbuncle: A Warm, Warming Hut

February 8, 2017 — 

The Carbuncle sauna is a playful and literal response to the vision of a truly warm warming hut. Scandinavian and Indigenous cultures have a long-standing sauna tradition that goes hand and hand with a long-standing tradition of humor. In this spirit of play, Carbuncle manifests itself as a hodgepodge of three unique volumes: the vestibule clad in cedar shakes, the lumpy core carbuncle, and the stove’s housing dressed in black-blue asphalt shingling. In medicine, a carbuncle describes an unsightly pussing boil on the surface of one’s skin. In the 1980’s the term was co-opted by Prince Charles to describe works of modern architecture that he deemed as monstrosities amongst Britain’s more traditional work. The unpretentious, rugged, and quirky sauna co-opts the term once again to characterize a space tailor-made for a prairie winter. Carbuncle’s chapel-like interior invites serenity and contemplation and functions as a counterpoint to the exterior whimsy. The interior space features gradient lighting from the dimly lit vestibule, to the glow of the sauna’s stove and the luminous relief of the skylight apertures.

The hut was developed by a team of students and professors from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The Institute generously donated the Pellet Stove and fuel, providing warmth to Carbuncle through the combustion of locally produced cattail & wood residue fuel pellets.  The waters of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers flowing under the ice at The Forks naturally contain phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N). However, human activities in recent decades have increased these nutrients to the point that the lakes in the watershed have experienced increased algal blooms. Cattail absorbs large amounts of P and N in its leaves. Harvesting cattail helps to reduce the amount of nutrients that would be released into waterways by decomposing plants. In addition to improving water quality, these cattail and wood fuel pellets are a form of sustainable and renewable low carbon energy to replace fossil fuels.

written by: Bianca Dahlman & The International Institute for Sustainable Development

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