Adjaye Associates and AB3D win in Latvia

Nick Myall
Friday 17 Jun 2016

A new concept design for a key Latvian museum has been praised for being a beautiful and poetic response to the challenge of the design brief

The Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation (LMoCAF) announced on 16 June that the competition jury has selected Adjaye Associates – working with the Latvian team AB3D – as the winner of the invited international competition, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, 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 circa €30m 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 In?ra 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.

The selection of Adjaye Associates + AB3D was the culmination of the high-profile invited design competition created by leading competition specialists, Malcolm Reading Consultants. 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.

Dace Melb?rde, Minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia, said: “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.”

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 winning design is characterised by a highly-animated tilting roof geometry which is designed to capture soft northern light and bring this 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 museum’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 their work, which includes the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture – due to open September 24 in Washington DC. The practice is currently shortlisted for the Obama Presidential Center set to be built in Chicago. Other museum projects include Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Colorado, USA, the Studio Museum Harlem, New York, USA 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.

The jury congratulated all of the shortlisted teams for the considerable thought and effort revealed in their respective design proposals.

The six other finalists (in alphabetical order) were:

  • Caruso St John Architects (UK) and Arhitektu birojs Jaunrom?ns un ?bele
  • Henning Larsen Architects (Denmark) and MARK arhitekti
  • Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects (Finland) and MADE arhitekt
  • Neutelings Riedijk Architects (Netherlands) and Brigita Bula arhitekte
  • Sauerbruch Hutton (Germany) and Arhitekts Ingurds Lazdi?š
  • wHY (US), OUTOFBOX Architecture and ALPS

In particular, the jury acknowledged the work of Henning Larsen Architects and MARK arhitekti and Sauerbruch Hutton and Arhitekts Ingurds Lazdi?š.

Despite functional concerns, the design concept by Sauerbruch Hutton and Arhitekts Ingurds Lazdi?š was awarded an honourable mention for its modest beauty and anti-icon rationale.

All the design concepts created by the shortlisted teams can be viewed in an online gallery

Nick Myall

News Editor

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