Revitalization of the Daugava Riverside by the City of Riga

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Urban context

History and urban structure changes

Riga is the capital of Latvia which is a Northern country of Europe. The city is well known by the Historic area inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List on 4 December 1997, is considered of one of the largest and dynamic city in Northern Europe whit the total area is 304,2 square kilometers and the population around 713,000 in habitants.

The Riga city has a very long and abundance history which has a great influence to the urban context of the city. Especially in the 19th and 20th century, when World War I and World War II occurred, the country is under controlled of Russian Empire (1721 – 1917), Germany ( 1917 – 1918, 1941 - 1944) and Soviet Union (1940 – 1941, 1944 – 1991) which changes the culture as well as the way of living of people, the urban structure and architectural of the whole city is varied and complex.

During the time of the Russian Empire and Germany, Riga is a harbor city which is the most vibrant and dynamic with over 800,000 industrial workers from Baltic province, Riga become the third largest city in term of the number of workers after Moscow and Saint Peterburg. The value of the Daugava river and its waterfront was enhanced but it is dominated for ports and factories. As a result, the population of Riga city increased quickly which went along with the demand of housing and spaces. More houses were built but according to Russian military regulation, the people only have the permission to build wooden house in suburbs. In 1812, the wooden houses were destroyed by war and they were rebuilt but still follow the previous wooden form. In mid-nineteenth century, the wooden houses have raised in number and became surrounded the city center. These houses nowadays is a heritage and affects strongly to the conservation policy and urban theory. In 1860, a new master plan with boulevard, blocks of apartment, alternative building and park were established. A new rail road was opened which stimulated the development of suburbs and factories, Riga port at that time has the highest revenue in Russian Empire, the river bank was developed quickly. It led to a result that the economy and the city life existed with a strong connection which is the main quality of the development project in the future.

In the period of So Viet Union, a new urban plan was approved with the construction of the large scale housing project as known as “mikrorayon” and the railroad belt surrounding the city center. Besides that, the structure with the critical height such as TV tower (368m), Latvian academy of science (108m) were built, along with it numbers of architecture trends were appeared in the urban context of Riga and one of those is the Art Nouveau which have specific architecture and the limitation of building height of 5 stories. The changes in urban structure in the Soviet Union times have the sinewy impacts to the policy of conservation in the current time as so as the high limitation of building in the city.

Riga city from having independence till now (1991 – now) has the significant development. After 1995, city started to rebuild the valuable building and housing which is considered as a boom in construction at that time, the service and new function buildings was established in the suburbs, attempts have been made to regain cultural symbol, historic value and houses which are lost after the second World War. In the Riga special plan of 2006 – 2025, the new Riga center has been created with the visions: planned as an area which is contrast the Old Riga in the right bank of Daugava river in a modern architecture and structure, full of function and services in which business functions play as an important role. Reduction in transport pressure in the Old Riga center where the old circulation system to ensure the preservation purpose of the old site. An international competition was hold by City of Riga to design the new Riga along the left bank of the Daugava River at that time.

Site context

The riverside of Daugava covers very larges territories in the total cityscape area and go along with the development of Riga through historical timeline when the city economy and daily life have a stable link with the river banks. From the time when Riga was found until now, the river has an every essential part not only because it is a city natural element but also the determination in planning and spatial identity of the city. For example, during the time of Russian Empire and Soviet Union, because of the great role in water transportation and industry, the city structure has changed for the purpose of serving housing for employees and building railroad areas. From the very soon period of 13th century, the infrastructure of Riga city was changed, for serving and connecting seafaring with river transportation by barges on Daugava, the merchants in Riga have created a vibrant trading city center, the circulation system, building quality and open space was improved for cargos business and loading. Until the 19th century, as a result of the rapid industrialization, the development of railways network and the embankment of port facilities, the element of the ricer such as: islands, waterfront, etc. was transformed with the building of industrial objects and warehouses. It is assumed to be a prosperous time of Riga Port as known as the major port of the Russian Empire. At the beginning of 20th century, a part of Riga port was still situated right opposite the Old city center. The function of the market and the harbor was end in 1930 when the Central Market was established and spacious public space were created in the city center. In World War II, the river banks of Daugava were destroyed, until 1949, they were restore for basic and local transportation needs. The port developed stronger in lower Daugava, near the Bay of Riga. At the same time, the developing industrialized areas along the riverside appeared architecturally distractively and prevent the accessibility of citizens.

Nowadays, Riga city has a develop plan to exploit and restore the value of the left bank and the right bank of Daugava river. The existing issue is crossing the river by bridges causes traffic jams in rush hours because of the high rising of cars and personal transportation means. The spaces of Daugava river is defined by its abandoned banks and aquatorium which is not considered to be a part of unified urban environment in physically and psychologically. But due to the impacts in spatial composition and urban development in the past, the Daugava river can be understood as ‘the river of possibilities’ (Dace Kalvane, 2010). Its spaces can make a general view of city perspective and elevation. However, the accessibility is prevent by existing infrastructures such as: bridge access ramps and arterial roads which lowering the opportunities of river banks renovation and interaction for public community with waterfronts. The busy traffic flows separate the walking paths and recreation zones from the river banks. There is a lack of bicycle roads system in Daugava river areas. Those things led to a result that the river is nearly abandoned, it became more clearly when the previous developments which were created in the past have lost their role in city economy and current developments have no connection to the river.

The development strategies for Riga city from 2006 to 2025 expect to recreate the link with Daugava for making an active waterfront. Therefore, a varied expansion of the riversides from different areas such as: container port and ware house area will be developed. The construction of commercial, tourism sites, pedestrian walk ways and bicycle roads which start from the suburbs to city center would be an interesting vision of infrastructures.

Project analyzing

Project introduction

The construction, revitalization of Daugava riverside and new modern urban quarter as well as its problems in development has become a challenge and main question in several competitions and workshops hold by the City of Riga. One of those is the completion named “The prospective construction on Mukusalas Street, Buru Street un Kilevina Ditch” occurred in 2006 to 2007.

As the winner of this competition, the project called “City of squares city of towers” introduced a large area of new urban tissue on the left bank of Daugava river which is opposite with Old Riga center and has the main quality is the water elements and its important role in the history. The project belongs to the extension of protected UNESCO zone. The proposed master plan includes the development of a system of squares, public spaces, mix-used building and flexibility. Those squares and towers contribute in defining their active surrounding and structure area. Furthermore, providing workable principles to ensure an articulated union become more fundamental than the elements create it.

The main points of this project is the systems of squares and tower which create the frame view of develop area of Riga city. The new develop area is the model of long-term vison of the city, create a new full function which share the pressure of transportation and inhabitant with the Old Riga center, helping in preservation the culture and heritage which is the most point attended in project over the world in generally and in Europe particularly.

In the article “Measuring urban heritage conservation: theory and structure” by Silvio Mendes Zancheti and Lúcia Tone Ferreira Hidaka. They mentioned: “The sustainable conservation of urban heritage sites depends on the maintenance of their present and past significances”. To reach the goal of sustainable