Richard Kroeker


Winnipeg Forks Warming Hut

In a strategy to bring more people outdoors during the winter, the Winnipeg Forks group created Canada’s longest skating rink beginning at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The “fir hut” was part of the inaugural group of warming huts along the skating trail, designed to be into position slid along the ice. The fir hut is based on thatched lodges used by First Nations forest people across Canada, and which the designer had built with students and elders in Eskasoni, Unimaqi (Cape Breton Island). The fir boughs shed rain and snow, allow ventilation, create a wind break, and provide insulation as well as a wonderful aroma. Because the coldest Winnipeg days are usually sunny, the warming hut has a south facing solar collector made with recycled aluminum beer cans, with small photovoltaic powered fans directing solar heated air through a duct into the ceramic thermal mass inside. Another adaptation of the solar heater was the mobile hand warmer on skis which can be pushed along the trail to provide shoots of warm air. The Fir hut is typically built just after the Christmas holiday season and can be made with discarded, recycled Christmas trees. It won the People’s Choice award and remains in use after each annual re-thatching.