Five neon fiberglass snowmen parade along Winnipeg’s Red River.
By Zach Mortice
There’s something unmistakably structural about a snowman: the tripartite column, the sequential progression of base, torso, and head. It might be every cold-weather kid’s first lesson in engineering and construction. It is also the inspiration for Jaemee Studio’s entry for Winnipeg’s annual Warming Huts design competition.
Weathermen consists of five snowman figures set on the frozen Red River; the largest few are hollow and big enough for a small group of people to huddle inside. They are among several warming huts to be commissioned for Winnipeg’s annual competition, which began in 2009. In addition to others, Weathermen joins Huttie, a “psychedelic funhouse” hut, in offering a whimsical vision of winter recreation in the city’s downtown.
Jaemee Studio is composed of New Jersey-based Haemee Han, who earned a BLA from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and an MLA from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and Jaeyual Lee, who is trained as an architect. Their five snowman figures are simple fiberglass shells, with each bodily segment painted a different brilliant color, placed on skids to aid mobility. Jaemee originally proposed a grid of 16 snowman figures spread across the icy river, in four different sizes, but the final design has five different variants ranging from four to 10 feet high.
Despite their backgrounds in landscape architecture and architecture, the designers conceived Weathermen as “more [of] an art object than as an architecture hut,” says Han. “We are really interested in exploring everyday objects for our public art designs.” There’s an easy approachability and familiarity with the snowmen silhouettes that lend a sense of scale to the white expanse of the frozen river. Inside each structure, Han envisions a warm embrace from an icy behemoth. “It would be fun to have this contrasted meaning,” she says.
Unlike other Winnipeg warming huts from previous years, the Weathermen installation isn’t geared toward communal gatherings and interaction, given that it’s intensely scaled to the human body (the largest figure allows room for only three people). Han had initially planned to make each snowman figure habitable by only one person so that the installation would be “more like wearable architecture,” she says. With its small scale and dispersed figures, this curious family of seasonal visitors looks great for active, kid-friendly uses: hide-and-seek amid snow flurries or ducking and covering for a snowball fight—both warming activities even without shelter.