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Competition: Warming Huts 2018, Winnipeg

The Forks Foundation has reopened its annual international contest for a series of $16,500 (CAN) art installations in Winnipeg, Canada (Deadline: 3 October)

Open to all architects, landscape architects, designers and students, the open anonymous competition seeks ‘creative, original and durable’ proposals for temporary winter warming huts or art installations suitable for the Manitoba city’s cold winter.

Three winning designs will be constructed on prefabricated skids and anchored on ice at the meeting of the Red River and Assiniboine River along the Red River Mutual Trail in an area known as the Forks early next year.

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

Source: Image by Emily Patrician

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

According to the brief: ‘Warming Huts is an open competition, supported by the Manitoba Association of Architects. Once entries are submitted, a blind jury selects designs that best “push the envelope of design, craft and art.”

‘Nearing the end of January, competition winners travel to Winnipeg to begin construction on their warming hut. The weeklong building blitz gives designers a chance to watch their vision come to life while allowing the public to watch them at work. Warming huts are then brought out to the Red River Mutual Trail for visitors to skate to, interact with, and enjoy.’

Winnipeg – which means ‘muddy water’ in Cree – has been an important trading centre for thousands of years and is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the West’ due to its many railroad connections.

Formerly an ancient meeting place for aboriginal people, the Forks has now become an important tourist destination receiving four million visitors every year. When frozen over in the winter, the nearby river is also used as an alternative route into downtown Winnipeg by users of bikes, skates and skis.

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

Source: Image by Jacqueline Young

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

Founded 13 years ago, the Forks Foundation is a local charity working to promote heritage, culture, arts, recreation and other activities in the 5.5ha waterfront area which is close to the Winnipeg Railway Museum and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The annual competition – launched in 2009 and supported by Peter Hargreaves of local firm Sputnik Architecture – aims to transform the frozen river surface next to the 6,000 years old meeting place into a new architectural focal point for the city.

Last year’s winners included an installation called Stackhouse by London sculptor Anish Kapoor and Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam. Winners of 2015’s Warming Huts contest include UK-based OS31, whose pop-up restaurant (pictured) hosted Winnpeg’s RAW:Almond outdoor fine-dining festival.

Proposals are encouraged to consider solar radiation, wind chill, and the constantly shifting landscape of the snow covered river where the ice can thicken to 1m deep.

Participating multidisciplinary teams must possess a ‘proven portfolio of design work’ and include an artist and a member of a recognised architectural association.

Digital submissions should include four A4 pages of team information and two A3 boards outlining the conceptual proposal. Three winning teams – set to be announced on 2 November – will receive $3,500 and be invited to develop technical drawings for the construction process.

A budget of $7,500 is available for materials; $4,000 for labour costs; and $1,500 for construction management which will be arranged by the Forks Foundation. A further $1,000 is available for each team’s accommodation expenses and $2,500 for airfares.

The Forks Renewal Corporation will provide a construction team and project manager for each structure. The winners will be invited to Winnipeg to help construct and install their finished structure.

The winners will furthermore participate in a series of events including a party, talks, design studio critiques and a hockey match once the structures open in late January next year.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 2pm local time (CST) on 3 October

Contact details

The Forks Foundation
259-393 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB
R3B 3H6

Tel: 1.888.942.6302

Visit the competition website for more information

Open Border case study: Q&A with Joyce de Grauw and Paul van den Berg

The cofounders of Atelier ARI discuss lessons learned creating one of last year’s winning installations

How did your Open Border project aim to transform the Forks’ landscape and engage new visitors?

By creating a long wall on the skating trail we aimed to make a project that has to be experienced, as people have to pass through it. With the bright colour, we created a strong contrast with the white, snowy landscape.

Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam

Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam

Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

In the Netherlands we did a project for a large dance event, where we made a long curtain of PVC-slabs which we cladded with half-transparent mirroring foil. We really liked the effect of people passing through it, and applied this material again in another way. When we came up with the concept of the wall we were thinking of a radical architectural intervention. When we started drawing the wall we became aware of the political aspects of the project, as it was at the moment that Donald Trump announced his ideas for a wall on the Mexican border. For us, it was great that we were able to make this critical statement against the radical ideas of this American president.

Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam

Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam

Open Border by Joyce de Grauw and Paul van der Berg from Rotterdam

What advice would you have to contest participants on participating in the latest Warming Huts competition?

First step is to find out which projects are already made, and also look at the concepts that didn’t win on the Warming Huts website. We actually came up with an idea for our design and found out later that somebody already came up with the same idea and didn’t win. We think participants should aim to create a strong but very clear and straightforward concept. It’s also important that it can be made in a simple way, within the budget.

Q&A with Peter Hargraves

The principal of Sputnik Architecture discusses his ambitions for the competition

Peter hargreaves

Peter hargreaves

Why are your holding a contest for outdoor art installations in the Forks?

The concept of using an international competition for the designs of new art and architecture installations at the Forks allows us each year to curate an exhibition that harnesses the creative energy of designers from all over the world. This is important for a number of reasons, but primarily, the competition allows that the jury will choose from a very wide range of proposals each year.

By contrast, if we invited artists and architects each year, without holding a competition there would be a sort of pre-destiny to the event and the results might be muted of the full potential that comes with establishing very few rules and allowing designers to imaginations to run wild.

The international component has helped to liberate the submissions from the shackles of the typical. Often designers from a particular region, in this case we could assume Canada, will respond to the challenge of designing a ‘warming hut’ along more narrowly defined parameters. The international community, designers from Tel Aviv, or Sydney, or Cairo, simply think differently about our situation and it is fascinating to have that mirror held up each year by thoughtful individuals from far away places. The responses are still very poignant but not necessarily in a way that we locally typically consider.

What is your vision for how the space will be transformed next year?

This is a good question because we are noticing that as the competition matures, the competitors seem to respond according to a natural ebb and flow of design interest. This year we will cross the threshold of 1,000 submissions, and each year there seem to be natural themes recognisable in the body of submissions.

We have worked through the use of computer numeric fabrication using a variety of building materials, so the jury is not easily convinced by proposals that simply involve a good deal of CNC plywood panels.

The production of the massive Kapoor structure last year, and the ability of our team to harvest and work with natural river ice is something I hope will inspire teams to submit projects that include the use of ice as a building material. We remain committed to excluding the supply of electricity to installations. Again, last year there was headway made on the use of PV panels and storage of electricity and lighting of installations using LED lights that will certainly open up opportunities for teams to use artificial lighting as part of their proposals.

Heated installations are also a common trend but to be honest, this is somewhat of a misguided use of energy. Since the beginning of the project in 2009 we have intended for the name ‘Warming Huts’ to be ironic in that we are not interested in creating warm little shelters in which visitors can escape the cold. This project is fully about inspiring people to enjoy the cold by being active in the outdoors.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We have received submissions from major offices all over world. The invited architects that have participated have included Antoine Predock, Frank Gehry, Patkau Architects, Rojkind Arquitectos, and Anish Kapoor. We have worked with vocal artist Tanya Tagaq and are looking forward to working in the future with music composers, theatrical performance groups, and an expanding arena of artists beyond architects and visual artists.

The competition certainly does provide an opportunity for young emerging architects to gain from the competition. We have noted that a number of the past winners use the Warming Huts win to promote their firms and without exception, all of the winning firms have continued to grow their practices. I know that Patkau Architects has used its Warming Hut submission and the experimental work that came out of developing their idea to great effect. It has created a whole body of work that emerged from its early studies. It is currently exhibiting its Warming Huts submission at the V&A in London.

The cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Toronto, Monteal, Yellowknife and Ottawa are now all running small competitions that were spun out of the Warming Huts concept. These competitions have my full endorsement and support. I have participated in varying degrees in helping the organisers launch these competitions with the encouragement that each place should work with what makes each place unique. In other words, making Warming Huts in Vancouver doesn’t make sense, but urban street installations does.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We are hoping to expand the competition to include opportunities for performance art. I would also like to promote an initiative we started last year called MELT Gallery – an art competition specifically for the creation of art pieces made from ice harvested from the river.

Are there any other artistic outdoor installation projects you have been impressed by?

I really like the Ice Hotel competition in Sweden each year. The Wara Art Festival in Japan also has a unique authenticity that makes me want to visit. Authenticity is really important to me and whenever local initiatives offer a unapologetic view of local customs and culture I am interested. The value of competitions was instilled in me during my six years in Montreal between 2000 and 2006. The Jardin Metis competition each summer is a mainstay within the design community there and abroad. 

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