Visiting Gunārs Birkerts’s Latvian “Castle of Light”

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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.

Pavilion and Workshops for Nature Concert Hall / DJA

© Ernests Sveisbergs

Architects: DJA
Location: , Siguldas pilsēta,
Architect In Charge: Didzis Jaunzems, Klinta Pickaine
Area: 150.0 sqm
Year: 2014
Photographs: Ernests Sveisbergs

“Unwritten” – Latvia’s Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2014

© Nico Saieh

From the Curators. The exposition with the project title Unwritten highlights issues regarding the perception, research, and conservation of Latvian post-War architecture. Unwritten chronicles, in fact, inexistent research on this.

Venice Biennale 2014: NRJA to Establish First-Ever Database of Latvian Post-War Modernist Architecture

Restaurant “Sēnīte” (1967); Vidzeme highway 37.km / Linards Skuja, Andris Bite, G. Grīnbergs, R. Ozoliņš – Courtesy of The Museum of Architecture of Latvia

The architects of NRJA have been chosen to curate Latvia’s participation at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Based on the assertion that “there is (no) in Latvia,” the pavilion’s exhibition Unwritten will confront the lack of research and evaluation of Latvian post-war modernist architecture.

View Terrace and Pavilion / Didzis Jaunzems + Laura Laudere + Jaunromans and Abele

© Maris Lapins

Architects: Didzis Jaunzems , Laura Laudere, Jaunromans and Abele
Location: Koknese, Koknese Parish, LV-5113, Latvia
Area: 50.0 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Maris Lapins

‘Show Under Skin’ Riga Theatre Reconstruction Competition Entry / NRJA + IG Kurbads

Courtesy of + IG Kurbads

Designed by NRJA + IG Kurbads, their ‘Show Under Skin’ proposal for the reconstruction of the new Riga Theatre corresponds to the dynamism of the creative process within the theater – minimalist, smooth finish, combined with a twisted in a motion stopped volume.The skin is a multi-functional covering structure which is connected with the historical volume, covering it and combining various features and space dimensions in a single organic volume, also matching different adjacent building heights. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Saldus Music and Art School / MADE arhitekti

© Ansis Starks

Architects: MADE arhitekti
Location: Saldus,
Architect In Charge: Miķelis Putrāms, Linda Krūmiņa, Evelīna Ozola, Uldis Sedlovs, Liena Amoliņa
Graphic Design: Zigmunds Lapsa
Area: 4,179 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Ansis Starks

Dzintaru 32 / SZK/Z Architects

© Martin Kudryavcev

Architects: SZK/Z Architects
Location: Jūrmala,
Project Architect: Uģis Zābers
Design Team: Kristīne Grava, Ilva Cimermane, Alvis Petrovskis
Interior Design: Zane Tetere
Area: 800 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Martin Kudryavcev

Spot Studios / Annvil

© Jurijs Vahrusevs

Architects: Annvil
Location: Riga,
Designer: Anna Butele
Area: 269 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Jurijs Vahrusevs

Library Building in Bauska Winning Proposal / A2SM Architects

Courtesy of

Located in the small Latvian town of Bauska, the composition of this winning proposal for the library was dictated by low-rise surrounding buildings and the wish to save valuable heritage on the site – old trees and historical building. In order to harmonically integrate into the environment, A2SM Architects decided to divide the building into a few small volumes instead of a single large building. More images and architects‘ description after the break.

Riga Passenger Terminal Winning Proposal / NRJA

Courtesy of

With the existing Passenger Terminal now outdated and situated in an exclusive location – adjacent to the very center of , the infrastructure needed a new identity and urban response. Therefore, the first prize winning proposal by NRJA envisions the development of the territory and port as a high quality urban environment which offers not only maritime transport, leisure, shopping and business experience but also public space connection to the city. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Holiday Home at Aluksnes Lake / AB3D Ltd.

© Edgars Gribusts

Architects: AB3D Ltd.
Location: ,
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 386 sqm
Photographs: Māris Lapiņš, Edgars Gribusts, AB3D

Tervete National Park Information Center / Sampling Architects

Courtesy of

The main goal of Sampling Architects for designing the interactive forest information center was to create a generic contemporary addition for the nationally famous National Park of . They believed the project should allow the discovery of the delight of ‘life of the forest’ through an educational center, but more importantly, creating a space for exchange of know-how of forest science between professionals, students and the general public. More images and architects’ description after the break.

University of Latvia Academic Center of Natural Sciences / Sestais Stils Architects

Courtesy of

The aim of the proposal for the University of Academic Center of Natural Sciences by Sestais Stils Architects is to create a comfortable, functional and sustainable environment for studies and work. They wanted a space for students and other interested persons to research and acquire contemporary knowledge and technologies. They also wanted to create a unit of urban structure where all functions necessary for optimal study and research process are provided at one place but at the same time the structure interacts with ‘outside world’ as well. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Riga International Airport Winning Proposal / Haptic Architects

Courtesy of

Haptic Architects, in collaboration with Narud Stokke Wiig Architects & Planners, and Griff Arkitektur recently won the open international competition for the new airbaltic terminal at Riga International Airport in . Selected from 125 entries from 70 different countries, their design features a roof for the airbaltic terminal that is influenced by the gently undulating forms of the latvian landscape, with peaks and troughs responding to the structure’s internal configuration and passenger flows. More images and project description after the break.

Reconstruction of Former Police Station to Apartment Building / NRJA

Courtesy of NRJA

NRJA shared with us their proposal for the reconstruction of a former police station to an apartment building in , . Their design concept respects the architectural heritage, partly renovating the existing volume and adding a new modern architecture. Reinhold Schmaeling buildings, especially schools, hospitals and public buildings created in early 20th century are very unique architectural works and important part of the rich and diverse heritage of . More images and architects’ description after the break.

Hotel Liesma Proposal / BNKR Arquitectura

© Adrian Aguilar, Jaime Sol

The hotel proposal by BNKR Arquitectura aims to reproduce in material form the ephemeral process of the diffusion of sound. This is a process of vibrant outward expression and subsequent decay. It is a narrative of the loss of integrity and dematerialization in space. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Hotel Liesma Winning Proposal / Ventura Trindade Architects

Courtesy of

The winning project proposal of Hotel by Ventura Trindade Architects recovers the concept of old ‘estrãdês’, simple outdoor structures formed by a stage with an acoustic shell and a flat audience, in front.The building acts like a system of visual and functional relation with the theme of the music box (resonance box), with visual resonance in the collective memory of the guests and general population. More images and architects’ description after the break.