Gunārs Birkerts, the prolific Latvian-American architect best known for designing the "Castle of Light"—the world's largest library in Riga, Latvia—has died aged 92. The National Library, which was first conceived in 1988 and officially opened in 2014, has become among the most significant, and controversial, contemporary public buildings in Latvia.
For an article featured in Blueprint Herbert Wright examines Riga's new National Library of Latvia, completed by 89-year-old Gunārs Birkerts this month. Located in one of Latvia's most historic urban settings, the library - locally known as the "Castle of Light" - challenges the city's recent history of Soviet public architecture with a contemporary, if not as equally monumental, cultural edifice. Initially conceived in 1988 now, over twenty five years later, the structure stands as a €163million testament to Latvia's rich academic and public cultural heritage. Earlier this year, "14,000 Latvians formed a 2km human chain to pass books from the old to new libraries." Wright's exploration of this seminal building on Birkert's œuvre is complemented by Janis Dripe's excellent photographic studies of what is certain to be one of the most important Eastern European buildings of this decade.