These Aren't Your Average Lifeguard Stations
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These Aren’t Your Average Lifeguard Stations

Winners of the Winter Stations Design Competition will bring some warmth to the cold Toronto shoreline.

One of the winning designs of the Winter Station competition  Image by Tim Olson

One of the winning designs of the Winter Station competition. Image by Tim Olson.

Four winning entries in the Winter Stations Design Competition were revealed today, part of an initiative to turn snow-covered lifeguard stands in Toronto’s Beach area into art installations on the city’s icy shores.

Contest organizers—architectural firms RAW Design and Ferris and Associates, and public art management group Curio—sent out a call in October 2014 for lifeguard stand redesigns that would attract visitors to the Beach in winter.

“The Beach is obviously super well-used in the summer months,” says RAW founder Roland Rom Colthoff. “However, in the wintertime it’s rather grey, to say the least. It’s cold and windy, and not a lot of people are down there because it’s a tough environment to be in.”

Modelled after Winnipeg’s annual Warming Huts competition, the Winter Stations contest focused on the general theme of warmth—the “idea of warmth, if not the physical quality,” says Colthoff. They received 196 submissions from as far away as Japan, Russia, Spain, and Britain, with designs that turned the plain iron lifeguard stands into toadstools, Tiki bars, giant toques, and summer oases ensconced in plastic bubbles.

Four designs were selected on December 9, 2014, by a panel made up of Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York), Design Exchange president Shauna Levy, Peter Hargraves of Sputnik Architecture, and Catherine Dean, programming director of arts organization No.9.

Since then, contest organizers and the winning designers have been working out the logistics of building the structures. The four winning entries, plus a fifth design created separately by Ryerson University architecture students, will be unveiled on Family Day (February 16) at lifeguard stands between Leuty Lifeguard Station south of Kew Beach and Balmy Beach Club. The Winter Stations will remain standing until March 20, 2015.

Local building developers have donated money to pay for the construction, and, Colthoff indicates, fundraising efforts are ongoing.

The organizers hope to hold another Winter Stations Design Competition next year. Even in winter, Colthoff says, the Beach is a beautiful landscape, and a vital part of Toronto. “There’s a very strong community there already, and we hope that this will strengthen it.”

Descriptive quotations are from the original design submissions.


Winning Designs

Driftwood Throne

Design by Daniel Madeiros of DM_Studio

Image by

“The modest lifeguard stand is decorated with a valance of reused timber, transforming it from a simple, discreet metal object on the landscape to a strong, faceted sculptural form.”

Visitors can climb up a flight of steps to get a clear view of the lake, or stand inside the structure to take shelter from the wind.

Hot Box

Design by Michaela MacLeod of Polymétis architecture and Nicholas Croft

Image by

“Entering from the harsh landscape through a cold, dark, rubber exterior, one finds themselves in an insulated, soft, muffled and light-filled space that conjures feelings of shelter, intimacy, quietude.”

Based on traditional ice fishing huts, the structure replaces the usual fishing hole in the ice with a window offering a view of the sky.

Sling Swing

Design by Ed Butler, Dan Wiltshire, and Frances McGeown of WMB studio


“Playfully imagines how a group of summer deckchairs might adapt themselves to the cold winter months. Just as animals in cold climates huddle together to keep warm, the chairs cluster around a fellow seat, the lifeguard stand.”

Visitors can sit in the canvas slings, swing to keep warm, or quietly take in views of the lake.


Design by Tim Olson of Bensonwood designers

Wing Back

“A vibrantly stained semi-circular form is sited south-facing to capture solar energy. The bench seat confi­guration gathers the warmth of co-occupants while the tall walls provide shelter from north winter winds.”

Mimicking the form of a cozy wingback armchair, the structure could, if approval is granted by the City, include a central fire pit.

Ryerson Design


Design by fourth-year Ryerson Architectural Science students Diana Koncan and Lily Jeon

ryerson design

“A playful outdoor project that mimics the protective organic form of the pinecone and borrows the simple, effective technology of the native igloo.”

Falling snow gathers on acrylic leaves covering the structure, insulating the space inside.