To make the most of short winter days and to fight the fierceness of cold, Winnipeggers are active when they engage with winter. Each year, at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers in downtown Winnipeg, one of the world’s longest ice skating trails is constructed, a temporary river restaurant is raised, and artists and architects from all over the world build structures to celebrate this lively public landscape.
This year, Crokicurl is a new addition to the winter scene. A simple idea that, at the surface, combines the popular sport of curling with crokinole, a much-loved Canadian board game. Curling has developed into one of Canada’s most enduring sports, played by young and old, novice and professional. It is a game played on long sheets of ice, in which two teams take turns sliding large, polished granite stones towards the “house” – a painted target on the ice where the most central rings are the highest scoring – aiming to accumulate the most points at the end of the game. Just as small towns throughout rural Canada are not complete without a curling rink, many cottages and homes across the country are not complete without a crokinole board. This board game is thought to have developed in rural Ontario in the late 1860s. The object of the game is to flick wooden discs across an octagonal wooden board, with the aim of having the most discs in the highest scoring circles at the end of the match. It remains a nostalgic and beloved activity, played by people of all ages.
The game has a clear objective – slide curling rocks from opposite sides of the ice surface so they remain within the highest scoring circles at the end of the round while knocking opponents’ rocks out of the way. The game is free to play and accessed on a first come, first served basis.
Crokicurl is simple in its construction. It uses materials that are similar to that of a backyard hockey rink. Iconic in its octagonal form, the rink combines the familiar red and blue painted rings of a curling sheet and the structure of a crokinole board. The pebbled ice surface is 15m wide, and the game is played with junior outdoor curling rocks, which are slightly smaller and lighter in weight than full size rocks. The scale of the ice surface facilitates effective gameplay, while allowing people to comfortably socialize around the ice. The edges of the playing surface are constructed of a timber frame to contain a levelled gravel sub-base for the ice. Steel bollards with a rubber bumper bottom sleeve are welded to a base frame, over which the ice surface is formed, securing them in place. A 5-gallon pail is used as a void-form during icing and is subsequently cut down to create the recessed button for the rocks to drop into when a perfect shot is made. The red and blue scoring rings are painted on the ice and flooded over.
It is important that the materials and fabrication techniques for Crokicurl remain simple and accessible to all communities. It is the hope of the design team that Crokicurl is adopted in cities and towns across the country. A downloadable rule board and ‘how to’ instruction sheet is available on the design team’s website in exchange for stories of how Crokicurl is implemented in new locations across Canada.
At its core, Crokicurl is about engaging entire communities and establishing solidarity through play and social engagement. Since its introduction, Crokicurl has been played day and night by people of all ages and abilities, by those who have lived in Winnipeg all their lives, and others who are new to Canada.
Crokicurl draws from a collective nostalgia and creates a shared public landscape that is at once new and recognizable. It creates a place for engagement that enriches the social habitat. One of the primary ways this is achieved is through the shared learning of rules for a game that everyone seems familiar with, but no one has played before. In sharing the rules, friends and strangers have the opportunity to tell their stories and reflect on a shared Canadian experience. Crokicurl has incited pleasure across the city and the country and has been described as the “most Canadian game ever”.
Crokicurl is social infrastructure. It is built with minimal investment and high return. When people come together to embrace a place through play, a new kind of urban experience emerges, and Winnipeg becomes more Winnipegish.
Entrant office name: Public City Architecture Inc
Role of the entrant in the project: Prime Consultant, Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved: N/A
Project location: The Forks, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Design year: 2016
Year Built: 2017
Main photo: Stationpoint Photographic