Warming Hut by Lateral Office Pays Homage to the Humble Snow Fence

warming hut
©. Lateral Office

It's cold in Winnipeg in winter, and colder still on the frozen Assiniboine River, the world's longest skating trail. Every year a series of warming huts are designed by architects from around the world. TreeHugger regulars Mason White and Loa Shepard of Lateral Office have designed one for this year's competition, that pays homage to the classic and ubiquitous snow fence.


© Lateral Office

However, rather than a barrier, this interpretation of the snow-fence is manipulated to be both a protective space and a playful passage. The linear fence is splayed, warped, and wrapped to create a threshold to the river trail. It serves as a transition from snow and boots to ice and skates. Drift-Pass maintains a powerful dialogue with its environment and its visitors, with snowdrift leaving a trace of its figure on the snow and ice.

Mason and Lola are big fans of felt and put it to use here.

In homage to the snow fence, a lattice of CNC-milled plywood is finished in a bright orange, which signals both safety and warmth. The structure is partially wrapped in industrial grade felt, recycled from woolen fabrics. The felt envelopes the interior of spaces to block out wind and to create a soft, warm space of rest and transition. Segments of the fence are cupped to face east or west privileging morning or evening sun exposure or protection from wind to create micro-climates within it. Benches line the interior pocket spaces, as well as some exteriors of structures to make Drift-Pass ideal for warming up, winter play and people-watching.
Drift-Pass has a deceptive, shape-shifting reading, it can seem at once as a closed or permeable figure. In plan, it is open and inviting to slalom through and within. In elevation it is more closed and intimate, with a series of small-scale interlocked spaces.