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Regeneration of Andrejsala - Riga, Latvia

Part 2 Project 2010
Katie Parsons
University of Plymouth | UK
Following hundreds of years of foreign oppression, most recently by the USSR, Latvia has finally regained its independence. As a response to the repressive political, social and cultural ideals of the Soviet Union, the citizens of Riga have begun to spread from the inner city though use of the motor vehicle, which they behold as a symbol of freedom.

In an attempt to re-enliven the city, this building proposal began with an urban strategy whereby the empty industrial pockets of land (relicts of the USSR’s occupation) along the city’s main artery - the Daugava River - become better integrated into the various existing communities; thus creating new activity nodes. These nodes aim to connect diverse areas of social, political and cultural difference through the appropriate use of public space, integration of a revitalised transport link and development of inner city buildings.

My work this year has been underpinned by my ongoing architectural discussion, which explores the notion of public space as a ‘transient’ entity. Using a bar of soap as a metaphor – the soap is transient as temporary ownership prevails - each user may appropriate the entity as desired, but once the activity is complete the entity can be used by others in the same or different ways. The factor of time is therefore a crucial one, as with time varies both ownership and activity, whether talking about space or a bar of soap.

The brief for a hybrid building typology offers maximum use of space and encourages temporary ownership by multiple users over time. Within this proposition there are a variety of different spaces created through subtle changes in architectural language. From public through ways to intimate meeting points – materials, volume, columns, overhangs and texture all play a role in determining the occupation of space. In essence a series of subtle rules are established within this ‘public’ building, creating a parallel to notions of ‘freedom’.

‘It’s the socio-spatial practices that define places with multiple and changing boundaries...Places are made through power relations which construct the rules which define the boundaries’
McDowell: Gender, Identity & place: 1999: 4

Katie Parsons

Beginning from a bar of soap as a metaphorical representation of public space, and grounded in discourse on the plurality intrinsic to space, Katie’s work through the year has explored the potential present in the ambiguity this multiplicity offers.

Her strategy for the regeneration of Riga’s redundant port of Andrejsala extends beyond the confines of the port, and seeks to address wider cultural, economic and social issues. The introduction of a boardwalk for pedestrian movement joins together the currently abandoned and fragmented riverfront of the city. This link is woven together with the fabric of the city via designated development corridors that connect to and revitalize key existing streets and nodal points of activity. These moves provide a shared ground where various social and economic groups can come together.

Within this context Katie has revisited the typology of the city block. Given Riga’s long and harsh winters an inward-oriented building has a validity; in the context of Riga’s increasing emphasis on the city as a space of economic consumption however, the associated specialised zoning fosters a spatial organisation that has little to give to the cityscape when the doors of shops and cafes are shut. In opposition to this condition Katie’s study of hybridity extends our spatial and temporal conceptualisation of social space. A play of solid and void both within the external envelope and internally provides fissures and platforms within which people can intervene. A state of shift, flux and transience is what prevails here, as space accommodates activities which spill out and relocate from one area to another, events that evolve into other happenings, and movement that allows for temporary appropriation.

The act of taking possession of and redefining this building’s landscape evokes deeper meanings of the Latvian sense of identity and their relationship to the wider landscape, grounded in the act of cultivation. Simultaneously, the malleability and permeability of spatial form allows for others to participate; it is not a space of introversion or exclusion, but a place for inclusion and communality.

Robert Brown
Associate Professor in Architecture / Master of Architecture Programme Leader

Mr Robert Brown

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