An amphitheatre worthy of Latvia’s hundredth birthday

  • 2016-03-23
  • Michael Mustillo

In two years, Latvia will celebrate its 100th birthday. And in a way quite typical of this nation of singers, one of the main events will be an outdoor singing show in Mezaparks. To make the show worthy of such an historic landmark, Riga City Council is investing heavily in a spectacular series of expansions.

Riga City Municipality and the Latvian National Culture Centre of the Ministry of Culture have signed in March the official agreement for the reconstruction of the Mezaparks Open-air stage with architectural offices of Juris Poga and Austris Mailitis, the 2007 winners of the international design competition for the projection.

The project is one of the most significant cultural reconstruction projects in Riga since 1991, according to Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs. The grand open-air stage at Mezaparks, as it stands, was constructed in 1955, and stages large-scale cultural and entertainment events, as well as playing host to the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, Latvia’s largest amateur choral events in the world and an important cultural and social event for Latvia.

The venue presently accommodates up to 9,000 choir singers on the stage and has a seating capacity for around 22,000 spectators — not enough for Latvia’s hundredth birthday celebrations.
“This is an extraordinary project, but I believe that we have all the necessary experience as well as the support of the ministries of Culture and Finance,” said Riga’s Vice-Mayor, Andris Ameriks.
Mayor Usakovs is hoping that the project will be completed and ready to be used as a tribute to Latvia during the nation’s centenary celebrations in 2018.
Ameriks has emphasized that the construction project must be ready by Jan. 10, 2017, in order for the Riga municipality to be able to accomplish the planned works before next nationwide Latvian Song and Dance festival in 2018.
After the reconstruction the audience area will have a seating capacity of at least 30,000, which will be 8,000 more seats than at present.

Additionally, if an event without seating is staged, the maximum standing combined audience and choir stand capacity will total 70,000, an increase of 25,000.
A new multifunctional building with conference and exhibition hall facilities will be built under the audience area.
The official signing was also attended by Signe Pujate, director of the Latvian National Culture Center of the Ministry of Culture; Aivars Taurins, chairman of the board at Rigas Mezi Ltd.; architect Juris Poga; architect Austris Mailitis; as well as concert director of the 2018 Song and Dance Festival, Ugis Brikmanis.

The Riga City Municipality will have the option of borrowing up to 45 million euros from the State Treasury at a zero interest rate for 30 year repayment term.
The construction costs of the first stage of construction are estimated to be around 18 million euros, while the costs of the second stage are expected to be 25 million euros.

The costs of the design project and construction expertise are estimated at 2 million euros.
The projects precise costs will, however, be determined after the technical project and procurement procedures have taken place.