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Ice hotel ignites students’ imaginations

Annual contest invites architecture students to design ice-and-snow-themed suites.


As artistic canvases go, ice and snow likely aren’t the first things that pop into people’s minds. But to hear David Covo tell it, they are a super cool medium for architecture and design students to strut their stuff.

“Designing with ice and snow presents its own set of opportunities and challenges,” says Dr. Covo, a professor and former director of the school of architecture at McGill University and president of honour of the 2012 Architectural Ephemeral Contest put on by the Hôtel de Glace, a seasonal hotel built of snow and ice in Quebec City.

Held annually since 2005, the contest invites students at Quebec’s four schools of architecture and design – McGill, Laval, Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal – to submit designs for ice-and-snow-themed suites. In addition seeing their designs built and viewed by thousands of visitors, the winning students receive $1,500 in scholarship money.

The contest offers students a rare opportunity to be involved in a highly imaginative, real-world project, says Dr. Covo. “Ice and snow are a surprisingly versatile medium that can be almost entirely transparent, moderately translucent or totally opaque [and] formed like concrete, assembled like masonry, carved like stone or wood, or frozen in time, like icicles or laundry on a winter clothesline,” he says. “It stimulates new ways of thinking, not only about the material itself but also about the nature of the space contained within – and defined by – the massive walls. And the really terrific thing is everyone gets to do it all over again next year.”

This year’s winners, announced on Jan. 20, are Virginie Hufty and Andréa Isabelle from Laval, for a design called “Haute Couture.” Second place went to UQAM’s Valérie Pelletier, Jean-Baptiste Bouillant and Clément Bourdrel for “Évasion Naturelle” while fellow UQAM student Andréa Bédard finished third for “La Cachette.”

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