Frank Gehry's "Warming Hut" design (The Forks)
Winnipeggers love a bargain - and it doesn't get much thriftier than a Frank Gehry structure for $20K.
As part of the third annual competition for River Trail warming huts, Gehry has contributed an elegant design of Douglas fir and semi-translucent ice blocks. The participation of the Toronto-born, L.A-based architect, best known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, confirms the competition's rapidly rising international profile.
Along with the big-name invites -- previous guest designers include Antoine Predock, the man behind the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and John and Patricia Patkau, who designed the Millennium Library addition -- the competition always features a submission from students at the University of Manitoba's School of Architecture. This year they've conceived HOTHUT, a cool hang-out spot that will be carved out of high-density foam.
The University of Manitoba's School of Architecture "HOTHUT" design (The Forks)
The three remaining spots are filled by an open competition. From New York's Kevin Erickson and Allison Warren comes the Rope Pavilion, a beautifully simple organic shelter, while the Mjölk team from the Czech Republic will be constructing some wild-looking Ice Pillows, basically silicone balloons coated with iced river water. Tina Soli and Luca Roncoroni from Norway will work with the weather rather than against it in their playful Wind Catcher.
The range of work illustrates the paradoxical idea that design constraints can actually be liberating. And these small, inexpensive, innovative shacks prove that you don't need multimillion-dollar megaprojects to showcase good design. Each of the huts, from the Gehry piece to the student project, is budgeted at $20,000, and that includes materials, labour, travel - everything.
The Mjölk team's "Ice Pillows" (The Forks)
(Just to put this in perspective, Ottawa -- which has been a little tetchy ever since the Rideau Canal lost out to Winnipeg's Assiniboine for the title of longest skating trail -- has just announced it s own warming hut program. It's dropping $5.4 million.)
The teams will be here to build their huts starting in the third week of January (statistically the coldest week of the year!). In the meantime, you can check out images of the designs tonight (Friday, November 18, at 7:00 p.m.) at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, as part of a 10x20x20 evening. An ongoing series formulated to share ideas about art, architecture, urbanism and design, the 10x20x20 involves 10 creative people showing 20 images for 20 seconds each. It's a fabulous format -- brainy and zippy and provocative and fun - and these events are always packed with people and crowded with energy and ideas.
Alison Gillmor, CBC reviewer