The masterplan for the new urban centre in Latvia's capital, Riga, was won in an open competition that attracted over 1,000 expressions of interest. Built on the Daugava River, the city has a historic medieval core which forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the boundaries of which touch the edge of the new development. The brief for the new urban centre, located on the left bank of the river, was that it should express both the economic growth of the young and rapidly growing nation but still be sympathetic to its surroundings.
On a 46 hectare site that had previously contained allotment gardens and railway tracks, the proposal – including various government buildings, a new railway station, transport interchange and a network of streets and public squares – is rooted in a sense of its place as well as being deliverable in incremental phases and which overcomes complex infrastructure constraints.
The new centre will spread out on both sides of the existing railway line that runs into the city. To stop these lines from potentially isolating the various different segments of the scheme – a familiar problem also encountered at Stratford City in London and Rapid City in York – the project creates a network of legible routes and spaces across the site, where the major new buildings will be located. The masterplan includes two major new public spaces. Museum Square to the north of the site will be created by extending the decking over the new through road and acts as a dramatic gateway to the refurbished Railway Museum containing cafes, small shops and restaurants.
Station Square will sit between the Council Building and the new railway station, providing a starting point to a pedestrian link that runs eastwards towards a new bus terminal. The proposal includes plans for long-term future development by laying the foundations in the public realm for further expansion across a 206 hectare area. Arguably the pivotal building in the design is the Riga City Council headquarters.
The folded structure, wrapped in coloured and translucent concrete and punctured irregularly with windows, will bring together 2,300 employees currently working in dozens of buildings within the existing city centre. Meanwhile on the south-east side of the site, the Public Administrative Complex containing five national ministries takes inspiration from the smallholdings that surround the site and fracture the landscape into tiny pieces, forming a cluster of smaller buildings.
“For Riga, the start of the 21st Century is defined by rapid development as the city sees to position itself as the metropolis of the Baltic region. We are pleased that the international design competition for the city and state authority’s new administrative centre was won by Fletcher Priest. Their design proposal demonstrated urban discipline, tolerance, functionality and coolness. The design for the new Riga City Council headquarters stood out with its particular elegance. We look forward to working together to take the project forward.”
Janis Dripe, Riga City Architect
Open Buildings - New Urban Centre, Riga July 2011
Building April 2010
4AD July 2009
Riga Dienas February 2009
Ingatlan Magazin February 2009
Urbanism.org February 2009
Diena Riga February 2009
World Architecture News February 2009
LvArhit December 2008
Architecture - Riga December 2007
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