Refugee Migrants as a Key to Address Urban Asymmetries Created by a Shift from Planned Economy to Capitalism
There were two initial lines of inquiry to this project. Firstly, the refugees – who they are, where they come from, and most importantly, why. What contributes to the current refugee crisis? And what sets in motion these factors in turn? The second line of inquiry is Latvia, as the site and the specific conditions into which refugees arrive and have to make their new life.
All these factors were combined into a research apparatus, which is a tool for analysing the relational power of the various global and local factors. This analysis was used to identify the factors that have the most impact on refugees ability to have a successful life in the host country. From this a programme for the project was conceived, overreaching not only spatial factors but also social, cultural, and legal aspects. Throughout the architectural development of the project, the spatial elements were checked against how well they accommodated the requirements set by the non-spatial elements.
All of these elements are tied and linked into a Dynamic Stability System – always changing, shifting, growing, but remaining stable and functional. This system involves elements and practices which are meant to offset the asymmetries and provide what is lacking under a regime of hardcore capitalism. The ultimate goal of the project is the ability to adapt and respond to change over time, as the socio-political and economic landscape is always shifting.
The next phase of the project was the urban approach. The site for the project was located by analysing urban asymmetries in Riga, places where the shift from planned economy in the Soviet era to neoliberal capitalism after regaining independence, had left abandoned or disused areas. The urban approach put focus on intertwining the site with its wider surroundings. In the case of refugee integration it is especially important to foster non-intrusive encounters between local people and residents of a new development. Furthermore, it was decided early on in the project that the development should also be open to local people of low income in order to decrease the risk of hostilities between locals and newcommers.
The development contains dwellings, retail spaces, learning centre, nursery and a job centre, as well as public, semi-public and private outdoor spaces. This is meant to become a new node of activity for the whole neighbourhood which is mainly residential, and would benefit from more public functions.
The building with a closed courtyard in the middle of the site was developed further in the architectural stage.