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Divergence

Looping and lyrical, Divergence dramatically stood out like an abstract signature on the crisp icy surface at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Completed as part of the 2021 edition of the city’s annual Warming Huts competition, the temporary landscape installation encouraged visitors to engage in the simple winter pastime of ice-skating in a more dynamic, unexpected and truly convivial way. 

“It shows how a simple tool can add visual delight into this peak winter setting — creating a public space where people can come out and engage in winter. It’s a simple idea, but very exciting.”
Sidhartha Talwar, AZ Awards 2024 Juror

Located at what is known as the Forks, an Aboriginal meeting place dating back thousands of years at the junction of the two major rivers that flow through downtown, the site is used as an alternate winter route by city dwellers and visitors who skate, walk or cycle across the frozen waters. The one-kilometre-long path of Divergence was a moment to meander, to circle back and reflect: Designed to mimic the flow of the eddies in the river below the surface, the bright pinky-red pathway undulated and curved, redirecting skaters, walkers and bikers as they glided along the surface. 

While the abstract line was more complex than traditional skating surfaces, it was constructed in just the same time-tested way. The spiralling routes were first cleared by shovel, then reinforced with river water until thick enough to be safe for both people and the machinery required to maintain it. But what really grabbed attention was its captivating colour: Derived from biodegradable, non-toxic vegetable-based tracer dye that was applied and left to freeze, the scene-stealing hue made a vibrant impact on the landscape and the people who engaged with it.

Team: Thomas Cheney with Julie Hale (Thomas Cheney Architects); Lawrence Bird (Sputnik Architects); and IISD Experimental Lakes Area

Winner: Temporary and Experiential Installations
Divergence

This temporary landscape installation encouraged visitors to engage in ice-skating in a more dynamic, unexpected and truly convivial way.

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