Riga's Urban Re-enchantment and Flooding Solution
Aalto University, 2016
Wang Shuaizhong Individual work
Wang Shuaizhong Individual work
Riga is facing a severe problem of flooding. Under the influence of climate change, a 6-meter sea-level rise is predicted to submerge the city and affect the central areas around the Old Town in the next century. More seriously, this kind of flooding can also take place when there is a vast tide or heavy rain.
The overall design, therefore, starts with this flood issue and proposes to reintroduce water back into the city as an infrastructural waterway system that is embedded within the existing urban fabric. This proposal, called the Water-line, can trap and absorb the flood impact within its system during extreme conditions while providing opportunities to generate new urban functions along its waterway branches, creating enjoyable water-intimate public space. Building these individual water lines is like giving the city an acupuncture treatment, in which small-scale intervention can have a positive effect on the more substantial urban level.
Riga is a charming place, especially on this site. The old town area has its charm. It used to be the capital of the Baltic Sea, it has many famous historical buildings, and it is the most popular area for the tourist. The market area has its charm. It is the busiest and crowded area for local people. The old market building also unique compared with the surroundings. The station area has its beauty. It is the transportation center of Riga, even the first door of Riga. And the building of the old station also has a long history to tell.
However, because of many reasons, these charming areas were divided into different urban fragments, like individual islands with no convenient connection, which made them lost some of their charms. Besides that, the field “X” located in the south-east of the site seems disconnected from the charming area and also abandoned. But this area has so many potentials, like close to many essential and attractive places, and its location is also a critical central area. Consequently, the field “X” is the place that needs to be activated mostly on the road to revitalize and re-enchantment the whole Riga. Also, because the location of this area is very close to the sea and the main branch of the river, it also has great potential to design the new Water-Artery system here.
Riga is growing as a city that has a series of rail corridors that extended from the city center. The railway acts as one of the main arteries, transporting people and supplies outward, and growth followed these lines. However, like many massive infrastructures that cut across the city, the market and the neighborhoods on opposite sides of the railway cut off from each other.
Although most of the primary function is located around the site, each of them remains like a fragment and ill connected islands, cuts off by the boundary of the railway and road. Thus, some connections need to be built and break through these barriers to make the whole area more integrated and walkable.
Some linear connections cross the railway links the old town and the market, a garden and a square, the shopping mall, and the office, while also referencing the bridge, the station and other post-soviet buildings elevational. The “facade” of the linear connection can refer to and reflects the broader urban context. The sparsely populated area to the south of the railway has the potential to be re-programmed, and re-activated into a new realm for the market and the central axis to the back of the station, becoming a new collective interface between the sea and the station.
For the new masterplan of the public space, a new garden will be built on the original bus station, and the old bus station and an old shopping mall close to it will be demolished. Two new plazas will be built on the old small retail stores and the seafront, one for the better connection between market and station, and one for the seashell entertainment. Thus, people can have a better view of the market and more places to do the activity while the seashell public entertainment facilities will activate the new axis to the back of the station.
To fully use the space under the railway and create more connections to the surroundings, the embankment is divided into five parts. For the first part, close to the sea, it becomes a gallery as a functional part of the garden. Two of them are for the relocated retail store, which was used to locate at the new market plaza. The region close to the train station has a new function of the tourist service center to help tourists have better and convenient travel experience. The largest part connected to the train station is the space for the new bus station with a multimodal hub including parking, retail, restaurant, bus interchange and so on.
Because of the new park, the old bus station will be moved to space under the embankment. The new train station will be transferred to the top of the railway to make the flow more fluently. So people can get out of the bus and then go upstairs to take the train. And to activate the south-west part of the site, a new axis was created to connect from the sea to the back of the station. It also connects and reuses the building between it. Compare to the embankment, and this new axis will be mainly served for the tourist. Make them feel convenient to shopping and go to the station.
The building design addresses the “small scale” problem on a site next to the Riga train station. The site is located around the center of Riga, which is the most vibrant and charming area. Most parts of the site have their own distinctive charm. However, one linear space south-west of the station feels abandoned and disconnected. This place has great potential because of its competitive location. A new city sub-center is proposed to reinvigorate this area, composed of functions such as shops, restaurants, entertainment, exhibition, and studio. The linear space is a pool, which not only connects the adjacent existing buildings on the axis but also creates a new public area within the Water-Artery system.
The Water-Artery will give all of Riga some relief from possible flooding and prevent essential infrastructure from being submerged. For the area around the station, a new public center will re-activate the underutilized space, and create a charming and vibrant sub-center.