Two designers have an inventive idea for how cities could transform snow removal.

For winter-weather lovers, a good-sized snowfall is a blessing that doesn't come often enough. Thus it can be a bit sad when municipalities work swiftly to get rid of the white stuff, shoving it into gutters and hauling it to vacant lots to melt in isolation.

But two designers from Chicago have a plan to rejigger urban snow removal and prolong the wonderment of a winter storm. Natalya Egon and Noel Turgeon propose that cities select areas in which no plowing is allowed. Then they would have municipal snow-hauling vehicles transfer their loads into these protected zones, where people and machines would shape the frosty stuff into monumental structures: mini-mountains to climb and ski on, flat mesas offering elevated urban views, rolling dunes as pleasing on the eye as ivory-colored ocean swells. (The above image depicts wandering glaciers in Manhattan's Washington Square Park.)

The concept is called "Second Hinterlands," and here's the theory behind it from Egon's website:

Those who reside in cold and snowy cities know the thrill of a winter storm and the fleeting blanket of white that comes with it. It allows for an appreciated quietness, followed by social and cultural interactions truly unique to the urban environment....

Second Hinterlands proposes a defined and intentional shift in our current snow collection and clearing practices following the winter storm. Rather than the immediate clearing of the city streets, Second Hinterlands identifies a portion of the city that is transformed via the lack of snow removal and strategic snow relocation. Shifting territories every year, each winter brings new forms, drifts, and an entirely unique exposed landscape. Inhabitants actively engage themselves with the newly formed landscape while neighborhood boundaries soften as the softscape of snow meets the hardscape of the city.

There are obvious criticisms of this approach. Imagine the outcry at community meetings from residents in neighborhoods getting a towering snowolith. Think of the children—won't they fall off and crack their noggins? If the weather suddenly warms, will tons of snowmelt make grass lawns a squishy morass? How will cars and bikes get through? Won't dog pee, litter, and car exhaust steadily turn any delightful snow art into discolored, contaminated trash-humps?

And yet the idea resonates on an artistic level. Who has an inner child so grumpy that it doesn't want to scale a gleaming new peak in the city square? Ohio believes in the promise of "Second Hinterlands," at least: Earlier this year, a panel of architects and urban designers picked it as a winner in a contest to rethink public spaces in winter-weather cities. Have a look at some of the ways that Egon and Turgeon would change the face of snow removal, beginning with this kite-patrolled field of mounds in Moscow's Red Square. It'd be a great place to get toddlers interested in snowboarding:

Here's a jutting ridge drilled through with a pedestrian tunnel in Helsinki's Senate Square:

Heavy vehicles could help create alpine landscapes on rooftops and streets:

Some more ideas for unique snow structures:

Images from the Center for Outdoor Living Design and Natalya Egon

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  3. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  4. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

  5. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

×