Winnipeg Skating Shelters by Patkau Architects



Patkau Architects of Canada created this group of temporary plywood skating shelters huddled together by a skating trail along a frozen river in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters by Patkau Architects

The shelters are constructed from two layers of flexible plywood attached to a timber frame, with a timber floor and plywood seating inside.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters by Patkau Architects

Photographs are by James Dow.

The following is from the architects:

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.

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. 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.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters by Patkau Architects

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.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters by Patkau Architects

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 and wind relationships that shift according to specific orientation, time of day and environmental circumstance.

Winnipeg Skating Shelters by Patkau Architects

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.

  • Representing the 'peg! Very exciting to see this make it on the website. The rest of the shelters this past year were also VERY cool.

  • These shelters are gorgeous and integrate into the landscape and natural surroundings so well. They are very practical and necessary to making a cold-weather culture enjoyable and sustainable. I love to see a design that works within the cultural framework and not only integrates but improves the experience and makes it beautiful and intriguing. These could have been simple boxes but they are lovely organic forms that serve as wind and cold shielding shelters as well. So, so cool. Well done!

  • ply ply

    very nice.

    well done.

    two words though… 'public toilet'.

    • amsam

      at least it would all freeze on contact

  • WillX

    Absolutely gorgeous! The way these structures become a part of the environment and seem to "live" with, and also enhance it, is fantastic.
    What a magnificent combination of function and design.

  • Nicole

    I guess you have to set it on fire to get really warm though.

  • Han

    Absolutely fantastic! So simple, so good! Just folding and bending. Great job and Amazing realization!
    Something for Winy Maas

  • amrita

    Complements with the surroundings

  • yrag

    Nice. Very sculptural.