Walking on Water
February 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment
The places in our cities are usually tangible and touchable. We can return again and again and they will always trigger the same memory. We can feel them beneath our feet. They are places in which to stand or sit or lay. Places to feel the grass beneath us, to watch people come and go, to relax under a treed canopy. Urban squares, promenades, playgrounds, wading pools.
Rivers are not one of those places. Composed of ethereal liquid, their currents are to be looked at as opposed to be in. In this respect, we Winnipeggers are the lucky ones, with our colder than cold climate. Here, the liquid geometry of watery highways that normally divide our city into three distinct and separate sectors quickly transforms into its solid state. They become a firm platform, a linear park connecting the city together. A place for urban explorers to experience our city from a new vantage point.
And so we do, from a dedicated river trail that, each winter, allows skaters and bikers and walkers and dogs to see Winnipeg in new ways. Even more wonderful is that the form of this winter place varies from year-to-year. Some years the trail extends down the Assiniboine River. Other years it follows the Red. It all depends on many uncontrollable factors: temperature, water flow, timing, luck.
This year the path extends solely down the Red River, a six kilometer-long trail in the middle of a wide, normally impenetrable barrier of water. This fleeting urban space is defined by a good walking path alongside a well-manicured skating trail. Along the way are occasional “warming huts” each the result of an annual international design competition. They are pleasant follies to explore, to be sure. But I most like rambling through the built fabric of our city, turned inside-out to expose the dark underbellies of our bridges and the hidden laundry of backyards and riverside industries lining the edges of this winter promenade. A place that, in a month or so, will no longer exist.
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