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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters in Winnipeg, Canada by Patkau Architects

May 20th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Winnipeg is a city of 600,000 residents located on the Canadian prairie. It is the coldest city of its size outside of Siberia. Winter can last six months. So learning to celebrate winter – learning to take advantage of the opportunities that winter provides – makes sense.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters

  • Architect: Patkau Architects
  • Name of Project: Winnipeg Skating Shelters
  • Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • Client: The Forks Renewal Corporation
  • Project year: 2010-2011
  • Architectural team: Tyler Brown, Matthew Bunza, James Eidse, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Thomas Schroeder, Luke Stern, Peter Suter
  • Structural Advisor: AnnaLisa Meyboom
  • Photographer: James Dow
  • Software used: NONE. “While it may not look it, this was decidely an ‘analog’ project in that the design was developed primarily using physical models and a full-scale mock-up in our shop. As such, the only representational media associated with this project comes in the form of working/shop drawings. It was never computer modelled/rendered because the forms were not preconceived, but the complex results of the simple process of making the physical artifacts.”

The Red and the Assiniboine Rivers meet in the centre of the city, and in winter, when plowed of snow, skating trails many miles long are created. But with temperatures that drop to minus 30 and 40 for long periods of time, and winds that can make minus 30 feel like minus 50, creating opportunities to find shelter from the wind greatly enhances the ability to use the river skating trails.  Therefore, a program has developed to sponsor the design and construction of temporary shelters located along the skating trails.

Evening View

Our proposal consists of a cluster of intimate shelters, each accommodating only a few people at a time. They are grouped in a small ‘village’ (or ‘herd’, or ‘school’, or ’flock’, or ‘flotilla’) to form a collective . . . of ‘something’ . . . irreducible to a single interpretation. They stand with their backs to the wind like buffalo, seeming to have life and purpose as they huddle together shielding each other from the elements.

Exterior View

Each shelter is formed of thin, flexible plywood which is given both structure and spatial character through bending/deformation. Skins, made of 2 layers of 3/16th inch thick flexible plywood, are cut in patterns and attached to a timber armature which consists of a triangular base, and wedge shaped spine and ridge members. (The ridge is a line to negate the gravity loads of snow.) Experiments in our workshop with a full-scale prototype mapped the stresses of bending. Stress points were relieved by a series of cuts and openings. The form of the shelter is a resultant of this process of stressing/deforming and then releasing stress.

Exterior View

Grouping the shelters into a cluster begins with the relationship of two, and their juxtaposition to qualify the size and accessibility of their entrance openings. This apparently casual pairing is actually achieved by a precise 120 degree rotation. Three pairs (one with mirror reflection) are then placed in relation to one another through a secondary rotation of 90 degrees to form the cluster and define an intermediate ‘interior’ space within the larger grouping. Together, the shelters create dynamic solar/wind relationships that shift according to specific orientation, time of day and environmental circumstance.

Exterior View

These are delicate and ‘alive’ structures. They move gently in the wind, creaking and swaying to and fro at various frequencies, floating precariously on the surface of the frozen river, shaking off any snow that might adhere to their surfaces. Their fragile and tenuous nature makes those sheltered by them supremely aware of the inevitability, ferocity and beauty of winter on the Canadian prairies.

Exterior View

Interior View

Interior View

Related posts:

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Category: Shelter

One Response to “Winnipeg Skating Shelters in Winnipeg, Canada by Patkau Architects”

  1. Matthew says:

    Beautifully sculptural objects.
    The night-time lantern effect is also very intriguing.
    I’d like to know how the lighting is handled (light type and where located within the shell).

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