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Goodbye, Khrushchevki

Soviet Housing in Post-Soviet Europe

Category Archives: exhibit

This morning I went to check out an exhibition about recent large-scale architectural and infrastructural projects throughout Riga. Hilariously, the exhibit (which was quite nice) took place in a mall, while the official Architectural Museum in the Old City contained only some old drawings. Anyway, it was definitely worth the walk over the bridge.

Fig 1. Entrance to Exhibit.

The projects in the exhibition mostly addressed recent schemes to redevelop Riga’s extensive industrial infrastructure. During soviet times, Riga was the Soviet Union’s main port, and served as its main connection to Western Europe. Thus, during the 1970’s Riga was the site of extensive and fast-paced industrial development, as a result of which the city grew extensively and nearly doubled in population. Most of the city’s microrayons were also built during this time, mainly to house the factory workers, a majority of which were immigrants from other parts of the Soviet Union.

Fig 2. Riga city model with Old City shown.

As much of industry has moved out in the last two decades, Riga now faces a similar problem to many Western European and American post industrial cities. Namely, an obsolete industrial infrastructure. While many of these projects seem interesting, to my knowledge they were all developed during the boom years prior to the economic crisis, and have now been put on hold indefinitely.

One project that I thought was particularly important was the redevelopment of the railroad ring that surrounds the city into a new multi-modal transportation corridor. I think that such infrastructural visions are crucial in re-imagining the future development of the city, and will provide the necessary ground for other development in the future. While it is easy to propose higher density urban development in many of these old industrial sites, pursuing such development without a transportation network that can support it would only add to the escalating traffic problems in the city.

Fig 3. Large scale redevelopment project for the west bank of the Dauguva River.

While I think the show was successful overall, almost all the projects dealt with Riga’s industrial belt, and not one of the projects dealt with the microrayons located just outside of the belt. Although considering the redevelopment of the microrayons is a more complex issue than its industrial heritage, I think that investigating potentials for such redevelopment is crucial to the city’s future.