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Friday01 August 2014

Jonathan Pickford - University of Plymouth

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Jonathan’s proposal acts to stimulate economic growth, ecological sustainability, and recognises the significance of cultural identity in the regeneration of Riga’s redundant port of Andrejsala.

Judges’ comments

One of a number of projects submitted this year that were preoccupied with processes rather than finite architectural results, the scheme particularly impressed the jury for the rigour with which the student had tested the possibilities of his chosen system, through the construction of a series of highly detailed models.

Student statement

This scheme proposes a new industrial / educational facility for Andrejsala. Central to this strategy is adaptability, acting as a catalyst for a new industrial revolution. Education is a key component to ensure less reliance upon unstable global trends and producing knowledge to utilise the country’s vast natural resources. Given the current fragile economy, it would be short-sighted to propose anything other than a socially and environmentally sustainable strategy.

In this context this strategy proposes a government-based industrial think tank and a timber technologies company acting as catalysts to encourage further development. Based on cradle-to-cradle principles and building on Riga’s historic relationship with timber, this process will start from sustainably-managed government-owned forests, supplying timber that will be transported via the Daugava River to Andrejsala for processing, and then distributed by rail  throughout the city, country and Europe.

The techniques used to construct the proposed educational centre will be linked to the school’s syllabus. Following Constructivist Educational Theory, which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences, carpentry students will shape the development of the building, constructing ‘additions’ within a mobile workshop frame. This system of continuous creation allows room for creative freedom, as a consequence, elements will emerge ‘by chance’. To limit the ‘chance’ of detrimental results, the process will take place within a defined armature and follow a set of guidelines.

This process allows the building to become both a learning structure and a place of constant self healing. Fine-tuning is what turns a building from a nuisance into a joy, and this proposal aims to make the tuning process an integral part of the building’s design rather than an awkward organisational dilemma. Continuation of this autonomous system is assured with the constant renewal and fuel for maintaining the process arriving annually in the form of enthusiastic students and new timber harvests.

The timber cubes that form much of the completed building use traditional timber joints and standard small section timbers, allowing on-site fabrication and assembly while allowing for the incorporation of many traditional building elements. Although the development has a more contemporary aesthetic, the construction processes can be extended to reconstruct the city’s fabric of traditional buildings. The building becomes a precedent for what can be achieved using small section Latvian timber, a locally trained workforce and simple construction techniques.

Tutor’s statement

Jonathan’s project, a live project for the regeneration of Riga’s redundant port of Andrejsala, is notable for its breadth of vision. In the post-economic crisis economy of Riga, the speculative investment that fuelled the city’s post-independence economy has derailed, rendering mute proposals for the consumption-driven model of the global city. In this context, Jonathan’s proposal acts to stimulate economic growth while supporting ecological sustainability, and recognises the significance of cultural identity in a place long subject to the impositions of external forces.

Grounded in an incremental approach, it builds off what the site has to give him not only physically, but also culturally, economically and historically. This joined-up approach acts at the urban scale through an armature linking existing public spaces and events, and serving as a platform off which new structures and activities can emerge.

The proposition aims to reinvigorate associated industries, which supporting regeneration beyond Andrejsala. At the human scale and tectonically the proposition is equally well thought through, accommodating existing construction technology while anticipating the appropriation and adaptation that will enable successive inhabitants to generate a sense of ownership over the structures. It is a mature piece of work well-received by our collaborators in Riga.

Robert Brown
Associate Professor in Architecture / Master of Architecture Programme Leader

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