Corvus Design Blog

December 8, 2010

Winnipeg – Getting it Right for Winter

 I was in Winnipeg in February a few years ago, and gained inspiration with how they’ve developed things at “The Forks” and around town.

I was at the University of Manitoba to be on an awards jury, and at the same time they had a traditional winter-only sport going on. So during one of our breaks, we went out to look. Spectators look down from above, and two teams combat each other in a snow corridor. I’ll try to get more info on the rules in case others might want to replicate it.

University of Manitoba – an unknown traditional winter sport…

At the The Forks (where the Assiniboine River meets the mighty Red River), the City of Winnipeg has created  conglomeration of fantastic all-season spaces that attract people to the area year-round. The winter appeal is that they have a plethora of skating, and other aspects that transform it into a “Winter Park”.

Putting intentional focus on winter and what it offers.

 Also here is a fantastic skateboard park, that transitions into some winter uses. I particularly like the incorporation of some of the skatable art objects.

What is an amazing skatepark in the summer, becomes visually engaging.
Skate elements in an awesome skate park.
Add a winter slide… why not?!
Allow snowboarding use of skate elements.
Skate park next to skating rink.

It’s really neat visiting a space, and seeing people skating along the skate paths that connect the river to various skating rinks, hockey rinks and covered skating areas.

Hockey and skating on the river, connected by skate trails.
Heading down the skate trails to play some hockey.
Winter skate trails connecting areas.
Covered skating area connected to skate trails.
Fun things along the way.
Programming is an important part of winter (and summer) play.

Indeed, a really important component of a place’s vitality is programming (for all seasons). This year they had Warming Huts: An Art + Architecture Competition on ice. I wasn’t there for it, but you can see the results using this link. It’s a great way to engage the community in a dialogue.

As well, like many communities, they have other events like the snow carving festival I had the timing to be able to see (flat light and all for the photos).

Programming winter! Snow sculpture festival.
Snow sculpture in the downtown core. A large one.

Walking through these places, I was also reminded that ingenuity is one of the most important drivers for interesting winter recreation… and these kids with a video camera were definitely embracing the risk part of ingenuity.

Yes… this snowboarder is dropping in from the parking garage – friend filming.

When I travel, I like to visit places during different times of day and night… and winter is a good time to see the effectiveness of our lighting.

Lighting transforms this skate element.
Lighting does magical things with snow.

 Lastly… while it was rather chilly when I was there… there were still the signs that as designers there are cues that tell us how to design our microclimates to extend the ability for people to enjoy spaces comfortably.

It only takes a little sunlight to warm up dark colors on cold days.