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Bendy skating shelters

Each year, a competition for the design of skating shelters is held in Winnipeg, Canada. The competition is a great opportunity to explore the creative potential of materials in an adverse climate. Here is a winner by Patkau Architects.

Standing with their backs to the wind, six structures made from thin, flexible layers of plywood huddle together, allowing skaters a temporary break from the fierce prairie winds that can easily transform -30 degree Celsius air temperatures into -50 degree conditions.

The outer skin of the shelters is made with two layers of  5 mm thick sheets of flexible plywood that have been cut from a template. The cut-out pieces are then attached to a timber armature consisting of a triangular base, wedge shaped spine and, very importantly, ridge members that serve to bear the weight of snow loads. Patkau Architects tested their design with a full-scale prototype in their workshop. As the architects explain, stress points were relieved by a series of cuts and openings. The form of the shelter is a result of this process of stressing and deforming, and then releasing stress.

Because of the flexible nature of their design, the shelters are able to respond to harsh winter weather by swaying and moving with the different frequencies created by prairie winds. And, in the process, the shelters are able to shake off any excess snow that accumulates on their surfaces.

We think these flexible plywood shelters are a great material response to the beauty and climate of the Canadian prairies.

You can read more about this project here. Also be sure to take a look at their project called ‘Cocoons,’ featuring changing enclosures made with stainless steel and designed for a high-end retail store in Tokyo.