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Students Yin Zheng, Wei Zou, and Rafael Vieira Leal with instructor Phillipe Perron stand in front of their warming hut entry, "Mirror Cloaking"

Students Yin Zheng, Wei Zou, and Rafael Vieira Leal with instructor Phillipe Perron stand in front of their warming hut entry, "Mirror Cloaking"

Warming Hut reflects international attention

Fifth entry for the Faculty of Architecture

February 2, 2015 — 

The fifth annual Warming Huts Art & Architecture Competition is is changing the river trail landscape. On Friday, January 30, the designs were unveiled, which included entries from across Canada, one from Mexico, as well as an art installation from Norway. This year is also the fifth entry from the Faculty of Architecture with students from the environmental design program participating in the unlikely celebration of winter.

“The frozen rivers are one of the most fantastic public spaces that I’ve ever encountered and the warming huts really activate that space and allow for a celebration of Winnipeg winter,” says Ralph Stern, dean of the Faculty of Architecture. “The warming huts make the community much more aware of the importance of design in activating public spaces, even those that might not necessarily be understood in terms of their full potential. So it enhances and celebrates and, in the best of all senses, it can bring together a community around shared values.”

What’s of special importance this year is that all of the students involved in this particular entry are from other places than Canada. On the team this year there are two students from China and one from Brazil with their entry “Mirror Cloaking.”

Participating in the warming huts competition, “Positions the faculty in terms of its growing international connectivity,” says Stern. “And I think it’s wonderful that students from all over the world now are essentially coming here and are involved in the celebration of winter weather in Winnipeg.”

Indeed, the warming huts competition is increasingly building an audience from outside of Winnipeg, even expanding beyond Canada’s borders. Articles on sites like Gizmodo and in the New York Times have placed Winnipeg on the map as an unlikely winter destination.

Carol Eckstein and her husband Marty are from Chicago. They saw the piece in the Times and decided to check out Winnipeg for the first time.

“We came to Winnipeg for the weekend for the skating, and the enjoyment of winter, combined with the architecture and museums and food, which we read about first in the New York Times,” says Carol.

“We hope to see a number of the huts on our first skate. It’s really exciting. What a great concept. I think it makes the outdoors more accessible. My husband loves to skate. We also like art and museums, and design and architecture so we thought it was a great combination.”

The warming huts are drawing more and more visitors from outside Winnipeg. Sara Donaldson came from Minneapolis to check out the river trail.

“I love two things about this. I love being able to skate as a form of transportation because normally we skate in circles and there’s something very magical about being able to move to another location on skates. I also love that Winnipeg embraces their northernness. You know, if you’re going to be cold, then lets have a lot of fun with cold and that’s what’s happening here,” Donaldson says.

Not only are people coming to the warming huts, but warming huts and its concept are sprouting up across the continent. Similar competitions are taking shape in both Boston and Toronto. A previous entry from the Faculty of Architecture is even going to Ottawa for yet another event spinning off of the Winnipeg idea.

“I think in many ways there is an increasing realization of the importance of celebrating winter. Since Winnipeg seems to be the nexus of underscoring that, it’s nice to have people following Winnipeg,” says Stern. “The warming huts give [students] a fantastic opportunity to test out ideas, to see what it means to realize ideas and to see a direct impact that their ideas — already as undergraduate students — can have in the public realm.”

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