Get ready to celebrate the cold with Winter Stations

An artist's rendering of the Sauna installation, set to launch on Family Day on the beach. Photo: courtesy Winter Stations

An over-sized canoe billowing steam. A globe of charred wood lined with faux fur on the inside. A public sauna. These are just three things people can expect from the second year of Winter Stations, set to launch on Family Day at Kew, Scarborough and Balmy Beaches.

The now-annual event blends art, design and architecture by creating ‘interventions’ based on the lifeguard stands that traditionally sit empty over the winter months. The main intent is to inspire people to get outside despite the winter weather.

“It’s a nice winter initiative to get people out of the house,” said organizer Tomek Chwieszczenik.

A total of seven warming stations will be built over the course of five days. Four were chosen from an open call, while three were submitted by student teams from Ryerson, OCADu and Laurentian Universities.

This year saw the number of submissions nearly double, with more than 380 concepts submitted, said Chwieszczenik.

“The jury had a hard time deciding. I think we had 20 runners up,” he said.

The theme of ‘Freeze/Thaw’ is intended to draw responses to the changing climactic conditions of winter. The broad theme allows a wide range of interpretation, limited only by the imagination.

“[The intent is] to get people’s creative juices flowing and come up with something we haven’t seen before,” said  Chwieszczenik.

Another important aspect to the project is to have installations the public can easily interact with, said Beacher Lisa Rochon, jury chair, design consultant, and senior fellow at University of Toronto’s Global Cities Institute.

The chosen designs “bring out the inner child in all of us,” said Rochon. “You can be entertained, you can be engaged, you can be very playful outside … We learned last year that adults want to swing on bright orange fabric swings just as much as kids do.”

That playful interactive aspect is the key to a truly successful public art experience, said Rochon.

“It really gives permission to the public to touch, and feel, and experience fully, and it’s completely opposite to the museum experience, in which you are not allowed to touch the art, you’re actually told to stand back from the art,” she said.

“You’re absolutely required to go play on the beach with the pavilions.”

Rochon said she’s most looking forward to the public sauna installation, after having travelled through Finland extensively. She wondered if it might someday inspire permanent public saunas in Toronto.

“I think it’s perhaps going to be catalytic, and a bit of an agent provocateur, which we really think is important for Winter Stations,” she said.

Chwieszczenik is excited about ‘In the Belly of a Bear,’ the fur-lined globe project.

“It’s just so different. I feel like the experience in the interior will be very unique,” he said.

While everyone involved in the project no doubt has a station they’re looking forward to experiencing, the more exciting aspect of Winter Stations will be the public’s reaction.

Chwieszczenik said he was astounded by the sheer number of photos he saw of last year’s stations, and media coverage that extended even to obscure art journals.

Rochon believes the temporary, leave-no-trace nature of the stations adds to their enjoyment, but mostly the organizers just want Toronto to leave behind its winter killjoy reputation and get outside.

“I think it’s really powerful to just pop these up as temporary installations, invigorate people’s minds, give them some creative juices, and warm them up during the cold winter months,” she said.

“I saw people coming to the beach in winter in numbers that I’d never seen before.”

Winter Stations was founded by RAW Design, Ferris + Associates and Curio. The 2016 jury includes Rochon, landscape architect and assistant professor at Harvard Jane Hutton, architect and Partisans Architecture co-founded Alex Josephson, 2015 Winter Stations winners Lily Jeon and Diana Koncan, who designed the Snowcone installation, and Azure Magazine editor-in-chief Catherine Osborne.

The stations will be built from Feb. 10 to 14, launched on Family Day, Feb. 15, and will stay open until March 20.

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