It’s good to see construction activity in these economically taxing times, and some property developers who see opportunities are getting busy. One old and beaten facade fronting a lot in Riga’s Old Town, at Audeju 13, has been torn down to be replaced by something new. What worries me in this case is that we haven’t seen what this new building will look like, or what is its intended new use: retail, offices, residential. Why is there no billboard showing what the finished building will look like? Why is there no announcement for a public discussion on it, either? On the billboard posted, it calls itself a ‘Reconstruction,’ but with the old building now demolished to the ground, it is no such thing. This will be a completely new construction.
The problem this presents is that, over the past 20 years of post-Soviet construction mania, whether due to the urge to make a quick profit, inexperience or just a lack of quality in design or architects, Riga is littered with many new but unsightly buildings that were put up without proper planning procedures, public discussion or approvals, many times facilitated by money under the table – note former City Development Department Director Vilnis Strams – and that don’t add to the quality of life here.
We don’t need more examples of bad architecture. Riga needs and deserves better in its newly-built structures, buildings that contribute to the city, in both design and use. The public needs to get involved and be interested in what’s happening in its own neighborhoods.