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Ice Fishing Huts 2014

The ice fishing huts were the central project for the first year undergraduate design studio of the 2013/14 academic year. The studio was divided into twelve groups of 5 or 6 students who worked with a professor to develop one shanty. This was the inaugural class of our new architecture school. The school's curriculum thoroughly integrates hands on methods into many classes. This was the launch of a new design build school.

After studying the Sudbury Basin and drawing sections in order to record what lies above and below a sheet of frozen water or land mass, students were asked to design and build a hut to be used on one of Sudbury's 300 lakes. They studied how a simple shelter,  a protected volume in a windy, frozen expanse in multiple adds up to form a community of huts, creating a social network and seasonal public space during Northern Ontario's long, cold winters.

Students were asked to use ‘economy of means’ to be as efficient as possible with each of their design moves. Lightness, portability, repeatability, and unusual form were all part of the project's vocabulary. 

The design parameters for the Ice Hut were intentionally left open-ended for investigation. Very simply they were to be made primarily made of wood, have a floor plan size be between 3 m2  [32 sf] and no larger than 6 m2 [64 sf], and not exceed a budget of $1000, including the value of donated items.

Construction was carried out in the school's one room hybrid shop/studio and on its frozen porches. Hand held cordless tools were primarily used during construction. Faculty assisted with larger power tools. The blur and buzz of activity, the program's baptism by saw dust, was exhilarating and exhausting.

An opening was held outside Science North, a natural history museum, upon completion with hot chocolate and roasted marsh mellows to warm the minus 20 February temperatures. The huts were then auctioned off at what can only be described as the school's coming out gala to the highest bidder inside of Science North. The school's first design build project was for many students their first building design project and the first construction they built.



Images and Plans

Technical Description


The students researched geologic time by considering the physical geography of the school’s surrounding landscape: earth crust and tectonic processes; meteorite collisions; gradation, weathering, and mass movement; land sculpture by water; glaciation and glacial landforms.

Conceptual modeling began to adapt to human scale and use. These models were refined by the groups to the point where they could build finely crafted basswood models at 1:10 scale, which allowed the students to model structure and form simultaneously. The models were used to begin to think of materials, construction, and details. Precise 3D cad files were made to allow for the fabrication of efficient integrated structural skin panels. These files were used to plot full size patterns for irregular trapezoidal and triangular forms.  The irregular 1/2" plywood forms were final sheathing and patterns for the structural system simultaneously. Tools were limited to cordless circular saws, jigsaws, and drills. Materials were limited to wood 2x members and plywood for structure and furniture, adhered roofing materials, and plastics for light apertures.



McEwen School of ArchitectureLaurentian University


Architecture 67 Students


Project Start:2013
Year of Completion:2014
Life span:3 month(s)