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Competition: Warming Huts, Winnipeg

The Forks Foundation has announced an open international competition for a series of $16,500 (CAN) art installations in Winnipeg, Canada (Deadline: 3 October)

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

The 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.



Source: Image by Emily Patrician

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

According to the brief: ‘Three teams will be selected as winners of the WARMING HUTS: And Arts + Architecture Competition on Ice from submissions of designs for a warming hut or art installation.

‘A “blind” jury will be selecting the winning designs based on their creativity in use of materials, providing shelter, poetics of assembly and form, integration with the landscape, and ease of construction.’

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.


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

The annual competition – 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.

Winners of last year’s Warming Huts contest include UK-based OS31, whose pop-up restaurant (pictured) hosted Winnpeg’s RAW:Almond outdoor fine-dining festival.

Participating multi-disciplinary teams must possess a ‘proven portfolio of design work’ and include an artist and a member of a recognized architectural association.

Digital submissions should include four A4 pages of team information and a single A3 board outlining a conceptual proposal.

Three winning teams – set to be announced on 3 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 winners will also participate in a series of events including talks and design studio critiques once the structures open in late January next year.

How to apply


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

RAW:Almond pavilion case study: Q&A with Tony Broomhead

The co-founder of OS31 discusses lessons learned designing a temporary pop-up restaurant for last year’s Warming Huts contest



Tony Broomhead

How did your competition-winning pop-up restaurant change perceptions of Winnipeg in winter?

Even though the RAW Almond pop up had happened for the two previous years, the 2015 restaurant was much bigger in terms of scale and ambition. It had a huge amount of press coverage around the world before and during the event which was a surprise for everyone and really helped to highlight Winnipeg as an exciting winter destination.

What issues are important when designing temporary structures for a frozen river?



Source: Image by Jacqueline Young

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31

Like most architects we had never designed anything on ice before and so it was a learning curve to understand the issues and potentials. The main issues are obvious really – the ice is slippery, the temperature is extremely cold and the ice has to be thick enough to support the structure and the diners. The ice was over 600mm thick when we built the restaurant and so luckily stability wasn’t an issue. Rubber matting was used in some key areas, mainly so the serving staff didn’t slip and as for the cold diners just huddled together. It was all part of the unique experience.

While the diners were nestling together to stay warm the kitchen unit inside one of the branches of the restaurant was much hotter. This was a self-contained timber box that even though small was a fully working kitchen. The kitchen had to be raised off the ice and ventilated to reduce any chance of the ice melting. In this way the restaurant was different from the rest of the warming huts as it had to be a functioning piece of architecture that served 3000 people in 3 weeks.

Which material, structural and other design techniques are available to architects seeking a similarly impressive outcome?

The competition set out our kit of parts; scaffold, tarpaulin and cable ties which gave the restaurant a distinct look. It was important to us that structure was honest and celebrated the limited palette of materials. One interesting part of the process was understanding how the scaffolding could be anchored to the ice. Here the ice was our friend. Holes were bored into the ice and the scaff poles inserted. Then holes were then filled with hot water. Within seconds the water froze and it was like setting the scaffolding in concrete. It would nice to explore further how the ice and the extreme cold can be utilised and play with how it can affect different materials.



Source: Image by Jacqueline Young

RAW:Almond pavilion by OS31