Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Why U.S. cities should stop whining and embrace winter

Warming huts, 2017. Courtesy of The Forks.

Architect Peter Hargraves would like to level with you: We are not getting rid of winter.

“I personally love winter; when the Quebec carnival happens, it can be negative 30 and they don’t even seem to think about the cold,” he says. “Back in Winnipeg, everyone is bitching about winter. I thought, ‘There are 800,000 people here. Winter isn’t going away. Why don’t we do something to engage the place we are at?’”

In 2009, Hargraves and his firm Sputnik Architecture proposed a design competition for warming huts on the frozen Red and Assiniboine rivers. Every year since, a range of architects and students have answered the call, using a variety of materials from wood to snow and ice; this year’s winners will be unveiled on Friday, January 25. The new huts will join 25 of their predecessors on the ice, creating a miles-long skate trail that gives people a destination for exercise, sociability, and aesthetic contemplation.

To get people energized to leave those houses in the first place, you need something more than a hut-shaped hut: You need an ice palace, you need a cave, you need the spirit of carnival. You need to make art of winter.