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Ūsiņš. A project of a museum and artists' house referring to Latvian mythology.

Dobrawa Bies
24 of August '21

This year's Omuli Museum of the Horse competition resulted in numerous successes for teams from the Wroclaw University of Technology. The project with the mysterious name Ūsiņš , referring to Latvian mythology, whose authors are Martyna Apczyńska, Aleksandra Jodłowska, Gabriela Szczerba, was shortlisted for the final round of the competition organized by the Bee Breeders platform.

The goal of the Bee Bre eders competition was to design an adaptation of a historic elementary school building in Omula into a horse museum located within the UNESCO-recognized North Latvia Biosphere Reserve, located 4 km from the Latvian-Estonian border. The competition task was also to introduce the functions of a guest house, artists' studio and work space. We wrote about the detailed guidelines and jury, as part of a project by the Gierbienis + Poklewski studio , which was also shortlisted.

The design was to include three different phases of the building, which could be opened to the public gradually over time. The first phase was to bring artists into the building and provide them with a space to live and work. Then the organizers expected the facility to develop into a guest house.

 Muzeum Koni, trzy
fazy rozwoju

The authors planned three phases of the project's development

© Martyna Apczynska, Aleksandra Jodlowska, Gabriela Szczerba

To respect both the historic school building and nature, we focused on finding the typology that already exists on the plot and its further development. By juxtaposing opposing elements: new - old, interior - exterior, fullness - emptiness, we were able to classify the existing spaces, as well as propose new ones based on them. Greenery in the form of clearings and clusters of tall vegetation is as important as the existing and designed buildings. All buildings have been integrated into the existing nature to avoid unnecessary cutting of trees. This symbolizes the equality of architecture and nature at all levels, the authors explain.

Muzeum Koni, dom dla
artystów  Muzeum Koni w miejscu
dawnej szkoły

The Horse Museum would be built on the site of a former school

© Martyna Apczynska, Aleksandra Jodlowska, Gabriela Szczerba

Ūsiņš, or Latvian deity

In Latvian mythology, Ūsiņš is a deity symbolizing horses. In order to emphasize the importance of folklore and keeping the tradition of the Omula school alive, this symbol was used by the authors as the basis for the floor plans and layouts of each building, including the existing school.

This is a symbolic gesture that could make the village of Omuli a place to cultivate Latvian folklore customs, and consequently attract tourists. In the future, the area could be further developed as one of the branches of the Latvian Ethnographic Museum, the architects add.

Rzut parteru kompleksu
Muzeum Koni

The project consists of a museum, a house for artists and a section with accommodation for visitors

© Martyna Apczynska, Aleksandra Jodlowska, Gabriela Szczerba

three stages of development

The authors distinguished three historical phases of the school's existence, dividing them into: the years of splendor of the educational institution, a temporary period in which the school performed various functions, and then neglect and vandalism. Their goal was to reverse the timeline and move back, through the phases of artistic intervention and temporariness, to the splendor and development of the building's educational function.

Thefirst designphase, minimizing initial investment costs, is the renovation of the existing building. Workshop space and an art studio with an annex will be available here, but artists will be free to use and transform all rooms in the building.

In the second phase, the space that was an artist's studio on the second floor will turn into a public art gallery. The architects also introduced a new building with accommodation for artists, a caretaker and a kitchen. The new building is being expanded in the third phase to include a guest house section with guest accommodation, a dining room and a recreational complex. The existing building is being fully adapted for the museum and permanent art exhibitions. The authors did not forget about the outdoor pavilions with space for temporary exhibitions and workshops.

Muzeum Koni, pawilony

Outdoor pavilions are located along the tour path

© Martyna Apczynska, Aleksandra Jodlowska, Gabriela Szczerba

visiting path and pavilions

We designed a sightseeing path that begins at the museum and runs through the entire plot. Along it are located outdoor pavilions, in accordance with the design's typology of contrasts. The whole project consists of five architectural objects corresponding to the surroundings and two green spaces, the students add.

The first pavilion is the existing Old Shed. The site can serve as a workshop and store for local artisans, thus involving the local community in creating an identity for the place. In addition, Latvian towns are known for their annual fairs and festivals with lessons in traditional crafts, such as the Jāņi Festival. The designed shed can therefore provide a venue for similar events.

TheOpen Pavilion is an object that blends in with the surrounding nature. The structure consists of four free-standing walls, four columns and a roof. The space created connects with nature while providing protection from the sun or rain. The room can host exhibitions related to local flora and fauna, and its simple walls provide a good backdrop for a variety of graphics and posters.

The Thought Pavilion is designed for exhibitions related to the relationship between humans and horses or animals in general. Semi-circular partitions divide the interior and create an intimate space. Thick walls help keep it cool in summer and warm in winter. A hole in the ceiling allows rainwater to collect, and the gentle sound of falling drops helps keep you focused and present, the architects explain.

Muzeum Koni, pawilony,
rzut i przekrój

A path leads through the pavilions to the green areas

© Martyna Apczynska, Aleksandra Jodlowska, Gabriela Szczerba

TheHorse Pavilion is a place to learn about horses. Inside there is general information about horses, and local breeds are highlighted. Part of the building is a small stable for two horses. Visitors can see them and even book a ride. What's more, the site offers a horse clinic where horses can stay until they recover. The pavilion's location near the existing buildings outside the lot and close to the road allows for further infrastructure development.

The Rest Pavilion is the last building structure that visitors to the museum encounter. It is located close to the clearing and is equipped with large windows from which to view the surroundings. Two workshop spaces are provided on the eastern side, with the middle section serving as storage space. The western side is mainly used for utility functions, with toilets and a small canteen with basic equipment.

nature part of the museum

Further along the tour path leads through green spaces, also designed with an established typology in mind. The clearing is an existing green composition characteristic of the plot.

Muzeum Koni, wnętrze

The school building will be converted into a museum

© Martyna Apczyńska, Aleksandra Jodłowska, Gabriela Szczerba

On the one hand, it is a resting place with facilities for a picnic or a bonfire. On the other hand, because it is a place where trees and shrubs have been permanently removed, the Glade can be seen as a symbol of what could happen to the Omuli Biosphere Reserve and North Vidzeme through lack of protection. The clusters of trees, like the Glade, are a stagnant form of greenery. Since nature is as important as the buildings of the complex, seeing the beauty in the intact deciduous forest is also a key part of the museum tour. This is the last part before returning to the main building, so the walk through the forest is also a time for various reflections on the experience and knowledge gained," Martyna, Alexandra and Gabriela conclude.

This year, students and graduates of Wroclaw University of Technology broke the bank, with the final list of the competition including the Mysterium project by a team of female students consisting of Julia Kochanska, Weronika Lis, Marcelina Terelak, Aleksandra Wasilenko, and On the Way - the work of PWr graduates Jakub Biernacki, Weronika Dardzinska, Michalina Debska and Kai Kirilenko.

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