Into the wild

From warming huts for one of the world’s coldest cities to leisure-led flood defence systems, these

CLAD Features: Last January, the temperature in Winnipeg plunged to -39.8 degrees Celsius – colder than Siberia, colder than the North Pole and colder even than Mars, which at the time was basking in a relatively balmy -7.

But Winnipeg isn’t a city fazed by cold. That much is obvious when its two rivers freeze over and Winnipeggers strap on their skates for some frosty fun. It’s something that inspired Sputnik Architects to launch an annual design competition for warming huts along the river. The first one was held 10 years ago and since then, dozens of temporary pavilions have sprouted from the snow, designed by upstart firms and superstars alike, including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor.

“People tend to understand the project within a few seconds of explaining it,” says Sputnik principal Peter Hargraves. “The reality in Winnipeg is that we have this weather for six months out of the year. Places like this can be taxing. But this project has reached a really broad audience. You can have a 92 year old grandmother taking her grandchild for a walk on the trail. It gets people outdoors.”

The concept is simple: when you’re faced with an extreme climate, you need to accommodate it. That’s especially true as global warming leads to increasingly wild weather, with unpredictable swings in temperature and precipitation, not to mention rising global sea levels and a strain on natural resources. Increasingly, leisure projects around the world are taking a cue from Winnipeg’s warming huts and facing the beast of tough climates head on.

In many places, that means tackling environmental changes while also creating imaginative spaces for the public to enjoy. In Denmark, Aarhus-based firm CF Møller has designed the Storkeengen, a plan to protect the nearby town of Randers from floods by creating an 83-hectare wetland nature park on existing grasslands.

Randers has been located along the Gudenå River for more than a thousand years, but river levels are rising and rainfall is growing increasingly intense. In response, the Storkeengen — “Stork Meadow” — will channel rainwater run-off into the new wetlands, which will naturally filter the water before it flows back into the river.

The public will be invited into the space by a raised boardwalk made from larchwood, which will connect nearby residential areas to a jetty where boaters can access the river. In the middle of the meadows, pathways will connect to a circular platform where a rope net will be suspended above a basin of water, where people can enjoy a view over the marshy landscape. Read more>>