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Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited has been awarded an OAA Award in the Concept Category for their whimsical, snow covered Warming Hut in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In November 2014, the firm’s design entry entitled “The Hole Idea - Now in Technicolor” was unanimously selected by the jurors of the International Warming Huts Art & Architecture Competition. Subsequently, the firm worked closely with Blackwell Engineering and the fabrication team at Canada Culvert to complete the corrugated steel pipe construction for the start of the city’s skating season in January 2015.
Once fabricated and assembled, the colourful hut was towed out onto the ice of the Red River, placed along the city’s extensive natural skating track and then covered in two feet of snow. The structure was designed so that only the very top of the coloured pipes and the big, bright yellow opening are visible on the surface of the constructed snow bank.
The design was inspired by the 1955 Looney Tunes animation, “The Hole Idea” in which an eccentric scientist develops a portable hole. Whereas the original cartoon holes were black voids, the playful holes created in the Winnipeg snow are bright orange, yellow, pink, blue, green, and purple. Fitted with a wooden bench, the large vaulted space of the hut functions as a refuge from the cold winds howling down the river. The colourful array of holes on the snow’s surface brighten up the ice the cold and wintery landscape.
The project has been an incredible success. Since it’s placement on the river, The Hole Idea has been played with, played in, and played on. Its snow cover has been manipulated and transformed. And while children are definitely attracted to its capriciousness, it has also been heavily enjoyed by a great diversity of people, young and old.
Firm principal Kevin Weiss said that when he received the call informing that they had won, the competition organizers commented that it was refreshing to see a project designed for children. “This comment made us think some more about the design,” Weiss recalls, “Truth is, we didn’t design it specifically for children. Bright, colorful, and whimsical? For sure. Playful, engaging, and delightful? Definitely. But we wondered why should this be only the domain of children?”
Weiss stated that cities are often too grey, too drab, and too utilitarian. For the Weiss design team, the Warming Hut competition was a call to create an architecture of play, silliness, and spontaneity. These traits, perhaps childish to some, are the traits that can make urban life wonderful and are very fitting for Winnipeg’s exuberant and renowned celebration of winter living with its natural skating track, winter festivals, ice sculptures and restaurants on the river ice.
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Client: The Forks Renewal Corporation
Design Team: Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited - Kevin Weiss, Principal; Sophie Tremblay, Project Architect; Mina Hanna
Structural Engineer: Blackwell, David Bowick
Technical Advisor: Punch Clock Metal Works
Fabricator: Canada Culvert
About Weiss Architecture and Urbanism Limited
Located in Toronto, Ontario, Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited was founded in 2012. Maintaining a high level of professionalism and service, the firm strives for design excellence and innovation. Working in a variety of sectors – educational, civic and residential, the firm is quickly gaining recognition with projects such as their proposal for Sarnia’s Waterfront Amphitheatre and a finely crafted boathouse and docking facility in Georgian Bay, Ontario.