Three Aspects of the Reconstruction Strategy for the Building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga Considering the unique architecture of the building, its representational importance and significant contribution to the cultural heritage, the proposed extension strategy is based on: - retention of the existing building capacity and authentic details; - need for renewal and extension of museum functions in the clearly expressed modern volume and subtle minimal design of the additional spaces; - redesign of the functional strategy of the existing building enabling more efficient use and ergonomic integration of the extension.
Based on the following aspects, we offer a functionally and aesthetically balanced design project for the restoration, reconstruction and extension of the building of the Latvian National Museum of Art preserving the existing building as a historical urban landmark and ensuring its modern functionality.
Aspect of Heritage As the current museum building is regarded a national architectural monument and listed building of the state significance No. 6530, it is one of the most representative architectural objects in Riga. According to the project, its restoration is intended with the maximum preservation of the functional building elements, use of the modern technology and maintenance of the original decorative details.
Aesthetic Aspect To solve the problem of shortage of the exposition space, we offer the adjustment of the existing unused building space, additional functions, as well as formation of new exhibition spaces concentrated in the new extension, which is designed below the ground level. By such placement of the new extension below the ground level it is possible to maximize the preservation of the building as the historical urban landmark. Next to such exceptional position of the museum building, only the neutral concrete courtyard with an amphitheatre in brass is added.
Functional Aspect Working on modernization of the museum building, we have concentrated on the development of the functional strategy, also drawing attention to redistribution of space and logical classification, grouping and connection of the existing and future museum premises and functions. In response to the needs of the museum, we have come to the following functional approach:
- Leaving the site free of any new ground-based volumes, we propose to construct the space for temporary exhibitions, storages with restoration workshops and ancillary facilities in the new extension below the ground level.
- Above the underground extension, in between the park and museum building, we suggest a square – stylized social space with an outdoor café, video projection, art installations in the open air and other public events.
- The ground floor is adapted for administrative and public functions of the museum - classrooms, cafeteria/ restaurant, conference hall, children's education classes, which can be accessible both, from the street and park side. New stairwell in the central part of the building connects the ground floor with the new extension and the main hall on the first floor.
- In addition to the existing exhibition space in the old building, we propose to use the cupola and part of the currently unused attic as the exposition spaces. To comply with the requirements for the exposition space, we propose to install skylights with natural light control.
- For convenient and practical use we suggest to redesign the part of the roof in a way that it could accommodate a terrace with picturesque panoramas, while allowing the natural light in on the second floor exhibition galleries through the original skylights. The impressive cupola space could be used for temporary installations and for access to the roof terrace.
Exposed Archives and Workshops The new extension is clearly distinguished from the historic building and hosts primarily the technical and ancillary premises of the museum. Walking through the public access loop (the entrance ramp) to the exposition halls visitors can observe the previously and traditionally invisible inner premises of the museum, such as archives of art collections. The restoration workshops can be observed both, from the exhibition hall in the glass covered atrium and from above, while walking on the glass floor. The large 12,0 x 3,5m lifting platform for exhibition delivery transport is integrated into the open air patio and provides natural light and occasional view for the visitors in the lobby of the new extension.
Public Square Main purpose of the square is to serve as a platform for public gatherings thus extending the museum’s possibilities to display art objects. The monolith concrete surface proposed for easier functional use also exposes the iconic shape of the old museum as a sculpture and clearly marks the new volume of the underground museum extension.
In the middle of the square, we propose an amphitheatre with the 9 X 9 m glass covered atrium at the bottom for the visitors to watch through it observing the everyday life of the museum, while also functioning as a skylight for the exhibition space.
Introduction The main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Krišjāņa Valdemāra Street was built between 1903 and 1905 for the needs of the Riga City Museum of Art and the Riga Society for Art Promotion; the building was designed by the museum’s first director, the Baltic German architect and art historian Wilhelm Neumann (1849–1919).
The monumental building is one of the most impressive on the ring of parks and boulevards around Riga. The structure and the dimensions of the exhibition rooms correspond to the requirements of an art museum in turn of the century Europe. The majestic façade is designed in the baroque and classicist styles; the sculptural group of the central fronton was created by the sculptor August Volz (1851–1926). The interior of the building, the vestibule and the ornamentation of the staircase banister, features elements of Art Nouveau. The upper floor lobby is adorned by six decorative semicircle paintings by the great Latvian painter Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945) and the master of Estonian classical art, Gerhard von Rosen (1856–1927).
The permanent displays of the museum trace the development of professional art in the Baltic region and Latvia from the mid-1700s to mid-1900s. The Latvian National Museum of Art regularly holds art exhibitions and scientific conferences, as well as diverse art and culture events, takes part in international projects, as well as compiles and edits museum publications. Alongside the permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Latvian National Museum of Art is known for its educational programmes.
Reconstruction The main building of the museum is an architectural monument of national importance and has served its purpose without major repair for 105 years. It was therefore decided to reconstruct and extend the building with the aim of creating a contemporary museum infrastructure for the preservation and exhibition of artworks as well as to provide the optimal environment for people to be able to learn and spend their free time constructively in the museum space.
On 25 may 2010 the Riga City Council announced an international architectural competition for the reconstruction and extension of the Latvian National Museum of Art building at 10a, Kr. Valdemāra Street. On 30 September 2010 the jury unanimously agreed that the best proposal was “VV 903” submitted by the Lithuanian architects’ office Processoffice and on 24 January 2011, a contract was signed for the design of the building project for the reconstruction, restoration and extension of the Latvian National Museum of Art. The project has not only to modernise the existing building which is in a very poor condition but also to solve the problem of an acute lack of space.
The development of the reconstruction project of the Museum’s building was completed in 2012. The construction works started in early 2013 and building was fully compleated by end of 2015. The Latvian National Museum of Art was officially opened to the public on the 4 May 2016.