The former cargo railway warehouse, historic building which dates back to the very beginning of 20th century, has survived to the present day and – almost untouched, with beautiful brick walls, wooden beams, many sliding doors and gates, is now covered and wrapped in the new coat made of steel and glass. The venue has been reborn as a concert hall – a platform for culture, art, music and other events.
Riga — the capital city of Latvia was one of the biggest and advanced industrial and port cities of the Northeast Europe in the period before the World War I. This 19th century capitalist city — not only brick buildings of numerous factories and workers’ wooden tenement houses but in fact 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 (Hanza Platform, in English) — the recent work of Reinis Liepins and Sudraba Arhitektūra is one of this kind, combining old and new elements, where 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 new level of clearness, sophistication and innovations.
The former warehouse building which dates back to the very beginning of 20th century is located in the area of former freight station on the edge of historic city center of Riga. Once it was an important logistics hub with six railway tracks and about 15 warehouse buildings but only this one has survived to the present day and – almost untouched, with beautiful brick walls, wooden beams, and many sliding doors and gates. With good intentions and efforts of owners, architects and builders the building is saved and upcycled to new event and culture venue, the largest private culture building in Latvia.
After the technical survey the conclusion of engineers was that the structure – both the roof and the brick walls doesn’t fit standards of building code. Architects concept was sophisticated and brave enough — 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 is hidden in fact. However the biggest spatial value —15 meters wide and about 80 meters long columnless hall is preserved in its whole, left almost seemingly untouched. Old jewel like structure made of brick and wood has become a part of 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 canopies 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. New coat of the building also helped to satisfy today’s strict energy efficiency guidelines.
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 multipurpose venue — for concerts, exhibitions, banquets and other gatherings now stores and deals with the ‘goods’ of culture. Main hall of 1200 sqm could be divided in three separate spaces, allowing noteworthy flexibility. 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 actors on the new and snazzy stage in once neglected city corner.
Riga cargo station is located in the Riga historical center protection zone, but it is not listed as a heritage building, so this conservation project contributes to a broader understanding of the preservation of cultural and historical heritage.
Historical Riga Cargo station in it’s new appearance and function serves as pilot project for the new future multi functional development in this area – New Hanza. The existing building is given new life with a completely new, accessible function, accessible to the widest reach of the public. It educates public about the conservation startegies and history of the former Riga cargo station infrastructure.
Reconstruction completion Year: 2019 Years of reconstruction: 2017-2019 (project development – 9 months, construction – 18 months) Year of the historical building: 1903
Gross Built Area: 4426 m2 Public area: 2800 m2 Event hall area: 1230 m2 (possible to divide it into three separate halls - 467 m2, 294 m2 and 467 m2) Maximum capacity: 2100 persons Maximum seats: 1200
Surrounding territory: 17 576 m2 Number of floors: 2 + 1 underground floor Height of the building: 12,9 m Volume of the building: 31 178 m3 Number of spaces/rooms: 57 Parking: for 57 cars, 3 busses, 38 bicycles Total amount of railway tracks used: 500 m Amount of bricks used for wall renovation 27 790 pcs
Architectural bureau: Reinis Liepins / Sudraba arhitektūra. Senior architect: Reinis Liepins The concept of restoration and solutions: Ilze Liepina Architects: Ilze Liepina, Ieva Landmane, Ainars Plankajs, Martins Ostanevics, Jurgis Prikulis. Supervision: Pillar Architecten and Sudraba Arhitektūra. Reinis Liepins, Anete Salma, Diana Kula, Ieva Landmane. Construction: Pillar Contractor Civil Engineer: "Kurbads" Engineers Group Client: Pillar Development
Photo Credits: R. Hofmanis ----- text by Artis Zvirgzdiņš European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture — Mies van der Rohe Award, independent expert.