Winnipeg Skating Shelters / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

Architects: Patkau Architects
Location: , , Canada
Project team: Tyler Brown, Matthew Bunza, James Eidse, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Thomas Schroeder, Luke Stern, Peter Suter
Structural advisor: Annalisa Meyboom
Project year: 2010 – 2011
Photographs: James Dow

© James Dow

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.

© James Dow

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.

© James Dow

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.

© James Dow

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.

© James Dow

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.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Winnipeg Skating Shelters / Patkau Architects" 17 May 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • John-David Carling

    where is the book mark for this proyecto!

  • JayM

    A cool, inspiring project! It’s neat to see projects for winter use, as most parks and recreation areas in cool climates are practically deserted in wintertime.

  • PatrickLBC

    Very nice… The forms are biophilic and the materials look warm and inviting.

    I wish there was a plan so we could see the rotations and reflections discussed in the last paragraph.

  • Phil Wilson

    I love seeing projects on ArchDaily by Canadian Architects!

    It would be nice to see a detail of how the shelters attach to the ice to avoid wind loads.. and possibly flipping over. Maybe this is avoided by the weight of the structures? (probably not..)

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