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Riga campus according to the concept of a Polish studio!

22 of March '23

Through an open two-stage competition, the University of Latvia sought an idea for the development of its academic campus and a vision for a new building for sports functions. The best concept, according not only to the jury, but also to the university's students, staff and alumni, was prepared by the Polish office of SBS Engineering Group.

Based in Krakow, the SBS Engineering Group studio team was one of four that qualified for the second stage of the international competition (six works were submitted for the first round). The projects for the development of the Academic Center of the University of Latvia were judged on the basis of their innovation, the originality of the proposed ideas, the quality of the public spaces and their accessibility, the design program, and their integration into the urban landscape of Riga and its Tornakalns district.

etapy 1. i 2.

stages 1. and 2.

© SBS Engineering Group

The jury of the competition included - Andris Sarnovičs, chairman of the jury, representative of the university, Jānis Ploks, architect andproject director of the Academic Center Development Program, Roberts Rostoks, deputy director of the Program, Sergejs Ņikiforovs, architect, member of the Latvian Association of Architects, Sabīne Skudra, landscape architect, member of the Latvian Association of Landscape Architects, Jeroen Dirckx, architect, representatives of the Riga City Development Department - Lolita Sarma and Iveta Staša-Šaršūne, and Evelīna Ozola, architect, acting Riga City Architect.



© SBS Engineering Group

SBS Engineering Group studio team consisting of: Maher Matar, Anna Kowal, Agnieszka Gozdek, Tomasz Giefert, Barbara Robak, Michal Sajdek and Piotr Ehrenhalt focused the winning proposal on integration and interaction, which they believe are the main components of the education process. Thus, the architects combined academic, research facilities and a local sports center into a single, urban cohesive organism.

The designed area is meant to create a sense of community between different user groups, the designers explain. - The university buildings create a seamless sequence of spaces arranged along a central spine with a representative plaza surrounded by amphitheater seating, retention basins and clusters of greenery. [...] The plan responds to the relevant phasing requirements, linking the existing facilities to the newly designed ones, and promotes the idea of a sponge city, so important given the complex water and soil conditions found, the architects add.



© SBS Engineering Group

The entire premise is taken out of car traffic, and pedestrian and bicycle transportation has been integrated with public transportation infrastructure. The campus is surrounded by a treadmill, and a two-level walking path runs through the center of the campus.

Maher Matar, co-founder of the studio, who for years gained professional experience in the London office of Foster + Partners, talks about the competition and the winning proposal

Ola Kloc: How did it come about that you took part in this competition?

Maher Matar: We constantly follow most of the competitions that are published in the international official journal of the European Union. Among them, we select those that suit us in terms of scale and in which the organizers have prepared materials in English. The territory of the Baltic countries is special to us. Our office in past years took part in preparing design guidelines for the Rail Baltica railroad line, and last year we stood on the podium together with Zaha Hadid Architects in the competition for the reconstruction of the main railroad station in Vilnius.

Ola: What differences do you see between Poland and Latvia in the organization of competitions?

Maher: Latvia is a small country (less than 1.9 million population - that's about the size of Warsaw), but with great economic potential. Most competitions are conducted in two languages, Latvian and English. This is intended to attract interest and attract foreign design offices to the country.

wizualizacja kampusu

visualization of the campus

© SBS Engineering Group

Ola: How was your competition proposal created?

Maher: The urban context we found was quite challenging - eighteen hectares of wetland with two buildings already in place and a third under construction, adjacent to a railroad area. Plans and guidelines for the development of this quarter have changed several times over the past twenty years. There have also been numerous student and community workshops exploring the needs of residents and users. The university also has very clear plans for what buildings are to be built on the campus by 2030. Despite the difficulties in the multitude of input materials, we had to listen to all the voices and extract a synthesis of what is most needed for this part of Riga. The competition was in two stages. In the first, we focused on designing a modern and dynamic space for the academic community. After advancing to the second stage, we responded to some of the comments from the evaluation committee. According to the jury, in the end it was our team that succeeded in creating a strong urban plan that stitched together all the pieces of the puzzle.

fragment bieżni

a fragment of the raceway

© SBS Engineering Group

Ola: What will be the next activities of the university? Are there plans to implement your proposal?

Maher: In a competition, we won the landscaping project for the campus. At the same time, there was an independent online public vote organized by the student government, in which our project was also trusted, which made us extremely happy. We received delicious candy from them! Now the contracting and implementation phase will begin. The first step will be to help prepare the guidelines and enact a new local development plan and coordinate its interfaces with the new streetcar and rail infrastructure under construction, as well as develop and detail the phasing schedule for further construction.



© SBS Engineering Group

Ola: Thank you for the interview!

compiled by
Ola Kloc

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