Latvia has been described as a vast, unspoilt parkland that is a tapestry of sea, lakes, and woods. With only one major cosmopolitan city, the capital city Riga, Latvia is a small country that provides its visitors and inhabitants with a vast amount of personal space. As one of the greenest countries in the world, most of Latvia is composed of fertile lowland plains and moderate hills. The countryside is a mixture of vast forests, fields, farmsteads and pastures, with hundreds of kilometres of undeveloped seashore, lined with pine forests, dunes, and continuous white sand beaches.
Latvia lies in Northern Europe, on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea and northwestern part of the East European craton, with a mixed and diverse cultural history birthed from having at one point been invaded by almost every regional power. It has a temperate humid continental climate, with coastal regions possessing more of a maritime climate with cooler summers and milder winters.
TOURISM IN LATVIA
Latvia has yet to be properly discovered by the large tourist crowds, with the capital city of Riga still being the country’s main tourism hub. The dynamic capital is a unique city that boasts beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, traditional cobblestone lanes, the historic old quarter, and steeples as far as the eye can see.
However, the country’s biggest resource is its breathtaking natural regions. Latvia provides endless opportunities for both locals and visitors alike to enjoy the pristine natural beauty of this sparsely-populated country; providing an ideal setting for hiking, cycling and nature-watching in a variety of natural settings that includes white-sand beaches amid pine-covered dunes.
TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE IN LATVIAN COUNTRYSIDE
Traditional Latvian architecture in the countryside and villages outside of the country’s main cities has long been constructed out of wood. For centuries, Latvian villagers constructed their homes from timber that could be collected from nearby forests, and covered with thatch roofing. While the homes were small and modest, they still had some architectural details that made them unique, such as the iconic forms of the gabled roofs.
Because Latvia was conquered by German knights as early as 13th century, architectural styles imported from Germany displaced the Latvian vernacular architecture from towns and cities. Therefore you would see few churches or other larger buildings built in the vernacular style, although some exist in villages. Few vernacular buildings survived to modern times, given how prone they are to fires and demolition, with most relocated into folk museums.
KEMERI NATIONAL PARK
Kemeri National Park remains something of a hidden treasure, with few tourists rarely venturing out that far. As the third-largest national park in one of Europe’s greenest country, Kemeri is a stunning and eclectic mix of forests, lakes, swamps and ancient raised bogs.
Situated just a 1-hour train ride from Latvia’s capital, Riga, the park is home to a wide range of fauna including rare birds like the black stork, not to mention moose, deer, elk, foxes, wolves and wild cattle and horses that were reintroduced into this unique ecosystem with some help from the World Wildlife Fund.
The park is criss-crossed with a large network of wooden boardwalks and nature paths that allow visitors to explore the natural wonders up close. The most popular trail being the 3 km Raised Bog Trail, which affords nature lovers a view of the picturesque landscape of stunted trees, red sphagnum moss and dark pools of water at this raised bog.
THE COMPETITION GREAT KEMERI BOG VISITOR CENTER
The competition participants are tasked to design an entry point to the nature park. The entry point will need to feature an information centre (small exhibition room) with a cafe, a terrace and a ticket booth.
The ticket booth can be a part of the building or a separate structure, however the park visitors would need to be able to buy the tickets from the counter window without having to enter the building.
In addition, a camping site is required for those camping in the area, a playground for children, as well as a car park. To improve the camping experience, access to shower and toilet facilities is recommended. There will also need to be an outdoor surface that can be used as a kitchen counter during the summer.
All structural elements must be made from durable materials, and should be able to be easily changed in case they are damaged, as one of the problems in the area is vandalism. The building is going to be open all year round therefore weather resistant design strategies are expected.
As the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency has expressed an interest in the construction of this centre, designs will need to be both in keeping with the look and purpose of the national park, while having the potential to become an iconic landmark in its own right.
- information centre (small exhibition room) – space to present permanent exposition
- cafe – tables to host up to 20 visitors
- terrace – can be used as cafe extension in summer
- camping site – space for up to 5 tents
- wc, shower
- outdoors kitchen counter, seating and table/s
- childrens’ playground
- ticket sales area with the counter window
- small kitchen for the cafe
- small storage area
- wc, shower – can be shared with the visitors
- 100 cars
- 4 buses
The building programme is flexible, open for modifications and improved development strategies.
THE COMPETITION SITE
The competition site is located at the entrance point to the Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk. The city is currently used as a car park and gathering point by those visiting the Boardwalk.