Praises for winning concept design for new 30-million-euro Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art

  • 2016-06-29
  • Michael Mustillo

The grueling process to find a winner for the new circa 30-million-euro Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art has come to an end after a process that showcased the creative work some of the world’s leading architectural firms.
The Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation (LMoCAF) has announced that the competition design jury has selected the London-based firm Adjaye Associates — working with the Latvian architectural team AB3D — as the winner of the invited international competition to design a new contemporary art museum for the centre of Riga.
The jury reached their decision following a thorough deliberation process that was informed by a panel of experts, and which included public presentations and individual interviews with the designers.

The Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art will be the first major public-private cultural initiative in Latvia and is set to be a cultural institution of interregional significance, shaping international perceptions of Riga and Latvia. The museum will support the nation’s growing artistic community and give Riga and the Baltic region an attraction which speaks to new audiences as well as art lovers.

The new museum benefits from a strategic site in New Hanza City (NHC), a commercial and residential development next to the Art Nouveau district of the historical centre of Riga. The museum is funded by the Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation and the ABLV Charitable Foundation, and supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia. Its unique collection will span art and visual culture in Latvia and the Baltic Sea region from the 1960s to the present day.
An outstanding shortlist of seven top-flight international practices was encouraged to form creative partnerships with Latvian architects during the second stage of the competition. A jury of architects and museum specialists met in Riga from June 6 to 7, 2016 to interview the teams and appraise the schemes.

“With the excellence of international architecture and Latvia’s significant contribution, we are a major step closer to the long-awaited building of the Museum of Contemporary Art. My thanks to all for their hard work so far — the patrons, competition organisers, the architects, and the jury.

The selected project has the potential to supplement the map of landmarks of Northern European architecture with the shapes and use of materials characteristic of Latvia,” stated Dace Melbarde, minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia.
David Bickle, jury chair, and director of Design, Exhibitions and FuturePlan at the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, said:

“The winning proposal is a beautiful and poetic response to the challenge of the design brief but above all it is specific to Riga. The team thoroughly understood the effect of soft northern light in experiencing and creating art and this insight was the inspiration for their scheme.

“Through the use of wood and form, the concept design subtly references Latvian architecture, proposing a very animated structure with a lively entrance that will enable the museum to create architectural presence in a new and emerging district. The design is very welcoming and porous — it has the potential to be loved.”

David Adjaye, principal of Adjaye Associates, said:
“I am honoured to have been selected for this ambitious and much-needed project. This museum will be a beacon that both celebrates Latvia’s incredible artistic legacy and meaningfully links the country to the international art community. The entire process — from collaborating with AB3D to cultivate a design that both understands and enhances its context, to the transparent nature of the competition — has been a pleasure, and stands as a testament to Latvia’s profound commitment to the importance of contemporary art to its cultural life.”

“The museum will be the first of its kind: the first purpose-built centre for a combined national collection of contemporary art; the first newly commissioned museum in Latvia since independence; the first museum to be dedicated to international partnerships and institutional collaboration with other museums as a way of facilitating sustained cultural growth; and the very first museum to highlight the regenerative potential of world-class contemporary architecture in Riga.
“We still have a long way to go, but today our dream is ever closer as we reveal the museum’s concept visualisation,” said Romans Surnacovs, Chair of the LMoCAF.

The winning design is characterised by highly-animated tilting roof geometry which is designed to capture the soft northern light and bring it into every gallery. The Adjaye-led team conceived the museum as a social condenser, bringing people together through a variety of formal and serendipitous interactions.
The jury considered the building’s distinctive silhouette to be compelling, giving the new museum real presence within the context of the surrounding commercial and residential developments of the forthcoming New Hanza City. Overall, the building was felt to be welcoming and porous, creating many opportunities for public gathering and events; it showed sensitivity and awareness of regional architecture and cultural context.

Adjaye Associates has received increasing global attention for its work, which includes the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture — due to open Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C. The practice is currently shortlisted for the Obama Presidential Centre set to be built in Chicago. Other museum projects include Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Colorado, US; the Studio Museum Harlem, New York, US; and the Marian Goodman Gallery, London, UK.
Tanzanian-born, London-educated Adjaye is currently the John C. Portman Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard, and has also held professorships at Princeton University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and London’s Royal College of Art, where he studied.

Local Latvian team AB3D was a finalist for the Latvian Architecture Award 2015 for its design of the Rezekne University Department of Engineering. The practice has also won a number of local and international prizes for their residential architecture.