Every winter since 2009, Winnipeg, Canada, transforms a stretch of the Red River Mutual Trail into an open-air architecture gallery. The structures–tiny spaces where ice skaters can escape the cold momentarily–are often fanciful, whimsical, and sculptural. This year, they got political.
One of the competition winners for the 2017 edition of the Winnipeg Warming Huts is Joyce de Grauw and Paul van den Berg‘s “Open Border,” a 9-foot-tall, 120-foot-long wall composed of semi-transparent red-orange PVC strips suspended on a wood frame. Skaters can either pass through the wall, or huddle inside.
“Creating a wall or border on a route is one the most radical and unnatural architectural statements one can make, which was something we liked a lot,” de Grauw and den Berg tell Co.Design by email. “The moment we came up with the wall we realized this would be a political act as well, relating to the speeches of Trump, but also refugee problems in Europe. [It’s] something you can pass through and a place to gather and warm up.”
A poignant effect of the installation is how people appear when they’re inside it: Because of the light and orange strips, “Everybody in the wall becomes dark-red silhouettes. Everybody becomes the same.” What a twist that a “border wall” could be an equalizer–something that brings people together instead of driving them apart.