Lead Architect: Reinis Liepins
Design Team: Reinis Liepins, Ilze Liepina, Ieva Landmane, Ainars Plankajs, Martins Ostanevics, Jurgis Prikulis, Ieva Leja
Client: Pillar Development
Civil Engineer: "Kurbads" Engineers Group
Construction: Pillar Contractor
Landscape: Madara Lezdina, Girts Runis & Sudraba Arhitektūra
Collaborators: Ghost train - Reinis Liepins, Sudraba Arhitektūra & Arvis Sprogis, Netra AS
Text by Artis Zvirgzdins. Riga — the capital city of Latvia was one of the biggest and advanced industrial and port cities in the period before World War I. In this 19th-century capitalist city, not only brick buildings of numerous factories and workers’ wooden tenement houses but in fact, the whole core of the contemporary city with its public buildings and multi-storey apartment houses, could be considered as the most significant part of Riga’s identity. The extensive heritage of the industrial age has played significant role in the fact that the architects of Riga are involved so much in those fields of architecture which are related to the architectural heritage — different restoration, renovation, refurbishment, and adaptive reuse projects and have been able to gain experience, skills, and mastery during the last couples of decades.
‘Hanzas Perons’ — the recent work of Sudraba Arhitektūra and Reinis Liepins is one of this kind, combining old and new elements, where the charm of the heritage and innovations of the new architecture blend in harmony, where respect for history is reflected in elaborate modern solutions, giving new life to the old. Following this tradition of Riga renovation and regeneration ‘school’ this recent building reaches also a new level of sophistication and innovations.
The former warehouse building, which dates back to the very beginning of the 20th century, is located in the area of a former freight station on the edge of the historic city center of Riga. Once it was an important logistics hub with six railway tracks and about 15 warehouse buildings, but this one was the only one to survive up to the present day. Almost untouched, with beautiful brick walls, wooden beams, and many sliding doors and gates. With good intentions and efforts of the owners, architects, and builders the building was saved and upcycled to a new event and culture venue, the largest private cultural building in Latvia.
After the technical survey, the conclusion of engineers was that the structure – both the roof and the brick walls don’t fit the standards of building code. Architects' concept was sophisticated and brave — instead of implementing new pillars and supporting elements inside the building to reinforce the existing structure, they decided to create the new bearing structure over and around the building.
The result may seem controversial. The historic building covered and wrapped in the new coat made of steel and glass. However, its biggest spatial asset, a 15 meters wide and about 80 meters long column-less hall, is preserved in its whole, left almost seemingly untouched. The old jewel-like structure made of brick and wood has become a part of the interior (like a gemstone embedded in precious jewelry).
The concept of the coat helped to solve the additional spaces and service and technical premises in a very clear way. The roof of the warehouse formed a wide canopy on both sides covering the logistic platforms where the freight wagons approached on the one side and trucks on the other. Now both platforms under the canopies are turned to posh, glamorous lobbies. Additionally, another full-height space is attached on the (southern) end of the historic building bringing it closer to the street and serving as the main entrance lobby. A new coat of the building also helped to satisfy today’s strict energy efficiency guidelines.
The old building with preserved textures and details is confronted with minimalist materiality of concrete (continuous terrazzo floor), steel and glass creating a nobby harmony and amazing but also poetic spaces. Fine new details express modest references to the railway aesthetics and also the preserved rail track through the new building as well as platforms, now embodied in concrete, are cherishing the memories of the place.
Old warehouse upcycled to the multipurpose venue — for concerts, exhibitions, banquets, and other gatherings now stores and deals with the ‘goods’ of culture. The main hall of 1200 sqm could be divided into three separate spaces, allowing noteworthy flexibility. The new building acquires another appearance by the night when lobbies are illuminated and the picturesque old structure becomes visible from the outside through the generous and transparent lobbies. Silhouettes of people lingering on the stretched platform and along the encounter appear as an actor on the new and snazzy stage in once-neglected city corners.