In Winnipeg in Canada, people tend to be used to hard winters and incredible cold. In fact, the cold season lasts for about six months and brings with it day-time temperatures that drop as far as -40°C. Added to which, the region is notorious for wind chill. But there's a good side to the cold, too: for example, the two rivers than run round the city freeze over. The expanses of ice this creates provide new temporary parks with large playing fields for winter sports enthusiasts, with many kilometers of skating lanes and cross-country skiing tracks.
Thanks to the Skating Shelters that the city authorities commissioned the architects at Patkau to design, there are now nice places to sit and shelter when the wind gets especially mean or someone simply wants a time-out. The wooden, wind-streamed cabins cluster around to form a small settlement, a prototypical village. Densely positioned, the keep the icy winds at bay. Each individual cabin is made of thin flexible plywood placed taut over an ellipsoid footprint to create a small room, with additional structural power delivered by a stable spine. The tension created in this way is then resolved by a series of deliberate cuts into the surface.
United in a group, the Shelters protect one another and skillfully redirect the wind past them. In the process, they move gently in the wind and the wood creaks accordingly. The simplicity of the shapes and their fragile grace offers a striking symbol of how beautiful and wild the Canadian prairies are in winter.
Skating Shelters in the Canadian prairies by Patkau Architects
25 January 2012
"Winnipeg Skating Shelters" in Canada by Patkau Architects | All photos © James Dow