Warming Hut Shortlisted For WAN Award
Our Smokehouse was shortlisted in the WAN Small Space Awards. You can see all the finalists here. We just love this juror’s comments.
I can imagine there’s nothing more inviting than to go into this little smoke hut, lined with wool and warm up. It’s very well executed, simply done to create a very extraordinary internal space.
About the Warming Hut
The Smokehouse is a warming hut, a place of refuge, on the frozen Red River ice skating trail in Winnipeg. It is a structure you might find in the wilderness as you cross the frozen landscape by ski or skate. Like a cabin, ice fishing hut or tepee, it is a simple elemental structure that provides just enough comfort and contrast to the harsh conditions that you would want to pause there for a while to warm up. It is a resting point on your travels that embraces you in soft ivory felt, dappled light and, if you are lucky the smell of a burning fire. Only three materials were used to build it: wood, felt, and steel nails.
The layers of thick wool felt are shingled along the walls and seating, fastened with galvanized roofing nails to the wall studs. The undyed wool felt acts as blanket, insulation and wind stop; it is naturally fire-resistant and can withstand the elements that enter through the gaps in the walls.
The felt creates 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.
The primitive structure has a single small entrance and a vent hole in the roof that acts like a chimney. The low entrance is further covered by a felt wind flap. You must bend down to enter the hut, almost like bowing, as you would enter a sacred place. This physical adjustment presages the surprising sensual experience inside. The opening in the roof is at once a vent hole and oculus. It allows smoke to escape and the building to breath naturally but it also allows light, snow and rain in. The simply framed view of the sky evokes an ancient precursor to Turrell’s Skyspace.
The exterior of the Smokehouse is clad in charred cedar and its black form stands in sharp contrast to the white snow and ivory felt. Burning the planks over a fire in a metal waste bin, a technique used in Japan for thousands of years, yields a crispy black crust, stabilizing the wood and making it rot, pest and fire-resistant. Magically, the charred surface also shimmers in certain light as if the act of burning it has imbued it with new life.
This project is an example of what we call Slow Space – a deliberate, meaningful space that has been designed and crafted for you, the user, and your experience. It activates your senses and leaves a lasting impression in your mind by way of your nose, skin, eyes and ears. It is not a place you pass through or an object to look at, but a place to inhabit, linger and experience. It is the antidote to our busy, harried lives.