The beginning of the installation festival „Warming Huts“ in central Canada in Winnipeg dates back to 2009 providing architects, designers and artists from all over the world with the unique opportunity to create works for the exceptionally cold winter climate. The venue of the festival includes the public space of the city of Winnipeg – the temporary trail for pedestrians and skaters on the icy rivers winding through the city. Every year when the ice on the river is at least one metre thick, they bring out the objects from previous years and also install three new installations. The competition is fierce, this year there were altogether 180 entries and the Totem was one of the three works that were selected and also constructed.
This is a beautiful and visually forceful spatially organised artistic, architectural and landscaped project. In the wintertime, when the river is icebound and all around is white and exposed, Totem creates a sense of verticality – a black sculptural landmark. At the same time, it works as a social and spatial adventure when you climb to the top and talk to a person in the other tower. A laconic and powerful work.
Austris Mailītis / Mailitis Architects /
The jury selected the project because of the stark simplicity of the forms within a landscape that we suspected would render well the playful tower. While the project introduces itself in quite simple terms, the visitor quickly experiences a myriad of dynamic features that are only enjoyed as a result of moving in and around the project in situ. The team at B210 was a pleasure to work with and their collaboration in developing details for the fabrication of the project to enable the erection of the towers on a complex landscape (frozen river) made the project a delight from the perspective of the organizers. We are grateful to have this lovely work of art and architecture in our city, given to us by a team from Estonia!
Peter Hargraves, Sputnic Architecture, organiser of the festival
The totem includes two narrow observation towers five metres in height where people can climb up one at a time. The metal towers are clad with vertical wooden beams made of local and highly durable hickory. Going up the totem is quite a journey – it is extremely narrow accommodating only one person at a time who must find their way to the top through a vertical maze. At the top of the tower, they can admire the views of the entire river trail or greet a friend in the neighbouring tower. Climbing up the tower is suitable for everyone and taking a step after step keeps you pleasantly warm.
It is -22°C outside, but the winding track on the icy river is in active use – there are skaters, people walking their dogs or jogging. There are also several ice hockey rinks and a restaurant established on ice that people can enter with their skates on. It was nice to see that visitors immediately adopted our installation: the most eager ones climbed up the tower with their skates on complimenting the view and the experience of climbing. Our installation was the highest point in the area affording excellent views of the entire track. Climbing up the tower is suitable for everyone and taking a step after step keeps you pleasantly warm.