Embodying the fruits of labor, the fleeting nature of beauty and the bond of a family united in the same creative pursuit, the pyramid igloo created by the Wood family in their Oak Park backyard is a jewel-toned wonder to behold.
“I must admit, my kids were a bit skeptical to begin with. They were like, ‘I don’t think this is going to work.’” said Antony Wood, architect of buildings and igloos alike.
When the pyramid began to take shape, the morale of his two teenagers changed.
“As it started to grow, it was like, ‘No, this is fantastic!’” Wood said.
The spectacular ice pyramid was made entirely by Wood, his wife, also an architect, and their two children. About 10 feet in height and width, the structure took over two weeks to construct, not including the time it took the bricks of colored water to freeze.
A painstaking process, the Wood family used about 800 cardboard juice and milk cartons to create the ice bricks. Once frozen solid, they would run the cartons under the faucet and then peel the cardboard off the brick, each individual brick taking about five minutes, according to Wood.
Each afternoon the family would spend hours laying the bricks, using slushy snow as sealant. The recent deluge of snow complicated construction, which included the digging of a covered trench through which electricity runs, powering lights inside the igloo. At night, the glow emanating from the pyramid looks positively magical, as light refracts through the semi-opaque ice walls.
“I did one of my Zoom meetings from inside,” said Wood. “It’s quite comfortable.”
This is the third igloo the Woods have built and by far the most ambitious. Wood marks their igloo-making experiences by the age of his youngest child, Joshua. The family’s first experience was the creation of a traditionally shaped igloo when Joshua was about seven. When Joshua was 10, the family made a much larger igloo. And at 16 years old, the family created the pyramid, showing a distinct correlation between age and grandeur.
While difficult and cold, the experience of building the pyramid was acutely special this year as the family has been sequestered at home due to COVID-19. The labor created a respite from the pandemic life, particularly for daughter Jasmine, a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Being able to spend time with family, she said, was the best part of making the igloo.
“I’m home with them all day, except not really seeing each other because they’re all doing their own respective school and work,” she said. “Spending a couple hours with them every day outside, just listening to music on the speaker – that was probably my favorite part.”
Her father shared similar views on the experience, noting that the project helped them battle bouts of COVID cabin fever.
“It’s been even more special to do because it’s been so nice to have another project,” Wood said. “Just having another interest for a few weeks was brilliant.”
Joshua Wood’s swim practice schedule cut into construction time, much to his disappointment, according to his father.
The family celebrated the igloo’s completion by inviting some masked friends over for a socially distanced reveal and a campfire.
“I’m so glad we did that,” Wood said.
Wood and his son attempted to sleep in the pyramid, as they have done in their past ice structures, but with the warming temperatures, the melting ice dripped like falling rain, drenching the pair. They called it quits at about 3 a.m.
Ice turning to water is more than just scientific, it’s a harbinger of things to come and a metaphor for the brevity of beauty. With winter inching closer to spring with every passing day, one would expect the Wood family to lament the fact that their impressive pyramid’s expiration nears. But they don’t.
“I’m almost looking forward to it melting,” said Jasmine Wood. “As soon as it melts, we’re always like, ‘OK, what are we going to do next year?’”
Her father already has that figured out; having conquered the pyramid, the family will return to creating a traditional igloo but using a different technique – filling and freezing water balloons. His excitement is palpable.
“Instead of doing it out of horizontal blocks,” said Wood, “we’re going to make a bulbous igloo out of, let’s say, one-foot diameter, glass ice cubes.”