Aamodt Plumb Architects, a young design studio based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, saw its second completed project built this January along The River Trail at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The firm’s Smokehouse, a collaboration with felt artist Rebecca Howdeshell, was one of three winning entries to The Warming Huts v.2013: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice. Jury members selected designs that best “push the envelope of design, craft and art” in an open competition that drew over 100 entries. Their winning design responds to the harsh winter conditions of The River Trail by employing natural materials and primitive building methods to create a unique space that provides shelter and warmth.
The charred wood exterior of the Smokehouse alludes to the fire within while rendering it resistant to fire, rot and pests. The interior is lined with industrial wool felt, also naturally fire resistant, and provides both insulation and wind break. The felt is shingled and some of the panels are embossed by artist Rebecca Howdeshell with prehistoric imagery from the area dating back 6,000 years. The primitive structure has a single small entrance and a vent hole in the roof that acts like a chimney.
“The elemental, pure form of the hut, almost the very symbol of home, rendered in the stark black of charred wood, is nestled in soft white snow. Inside, layers of thick ivory felt line the walls and seating, creating a nest-like interior reminiscent of ancient gathering places strewn with animal pelts. On closer inspection, one discovers the felt layers embossed with delicate patterns and textures, a subtle sanctification of intimate space. The room has a unique sound, or absence thereof: it is silent, like the sound of new snow on the street,” said the architects.
Response to the Smokehouse was overwhelmingly positive. One local skater wrote personally to the architects: “Thank you so much for the beautiful warming hut you placed on The Mighty Red River in Winnipeg. I try and skate the River Trail every day and always sit in your hut for a few moments. It’s stunningly beautiful and quietly embraces so much of our history and landscape… Once again, thanks for the hut and bringing joy to what has been a brutal winter.”
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