Kengarags Daugava Waterfront – international Architecture and Urban Planning Workshop
Client: Riga City Development Department – Latgale District Directorate
Status: 1st prize ecologic environment and landscape
2nd prize redevelopment Sarkanais Kvadrats factory
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg with T. Iwashita, D. Gurecka, L. Potjomkina
Year: 2006


…a natural flow strategy


Preparing the first ideas in Rotterdam before heading for Riga we expected that most buildings in Kengarags would be demolished in order to redevelop the area.


Soon after arriving at Riga it became clear to us that Riga will be a city of two parts. First that Riga is a park with buildings and second that all Kengarags buildings will be kept and renovated.


Riga is two cities, split by the Daugava River. The West part is fit for future power urbanism (…the sky is the limit…) and the East part, including our Kengarags district, for historic urbanism (…handle with care…). We consider this a very clever strategy and it made us proceed with caution in designing a conscientious, sensitive scheme for Kengarags.


Because Riga is very green, we see Riga City and Kengarags, our project area, as ‘a park with buildings’ ready for enhancement and activation. We extended the river deeper into Kengarags by digging shallow ‘valleys’ with natural flow of water and communal outdoor activity platforms. We extended Kengarags to the river by depositing excavated soil to form three islands near the riverbank. The positions and sizes of these islands are determined by the river itself: marshlands are already formed by the paths of the currents. The islands have two ‘faces’. One first shallow face has a lagoon with beaches towards the promenade. The second deeper face which is on the riverside has maritime sports. We consider the river scenery vulnerable and we do propose to avoid the use of floating homes or anything else that would disturb the views. Riga has plenty of territory for residential program anyway. The current promenade uses nature as a romantic zone to create space that is very friendly to people. Although we add lighting here and steel grill bridges over the valleys our scheme keeps it intact, as any design would destroy its present character.


We made a ‘Public Space Network’ of valleys together with Promenade and Maskavas iela (Moscow Road). Important program can be placed on nodes or cross points in this network. We placed two programs on Mascavas iela as public passages. Decks with ramps on both sides make space for programs.


The first project is a proposal for a Kindergarten at the north crossing of Maskavas iela. Its valley connects to the nearby school complex. Children can cross Maskavas iela safely and play on the top and the slopes in summer and winter. Below the ramps we locate active spaces for musical theatre and dance school.


The second project is the south crossing of the Riga CAC, the Cultural Arts Center. As an architectural translation it branches off from one of the natural valleys. Below the west ramp we placed the library that connects to the main volume via the public square over Maskavas iela. On the east side we projected the actual cultural part which included the auditorium and the remaining program.


Project Three is our proposal for the Sarkanias Kvadrats Project. We took away all low and rundown buildings unfit for renovation. A perforated deck at 6 m+ connects all buildings and makes space for a service level, the entries and stacked parking at ground level. Around each building a 5-m transparent zone brings light and air down. Several programs are embedded below the deck, like a health club, dance club and reception areas, arranged by various perforations. A new series of volumes with different views over Daugava River are aligned along the West edge. The zone along the promenade below the deck can be animated with restaurants and cafes overlooking the river scenery.