Caruso St John Architects

Location: Riga, Latvia
Client: Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation
Project Status: Competition

This design for the new museum of contemporary art in Riga sets out to make a special place in the city, an inspiring environment in which to encounter contemporary art. The design for the new building, situated on an as-yet undeveloped site, is conceived as an abstract and idealised vision of a museum, bringing together art, architecture and landscape in an almost Arcadian composition of buildings and gardens. 

Organised as a collection of buildings, some large and some small, the museum is bound together with the landscape around it, in a similar way to the rich interplay between an English country house and its surrounding gardens. The building has walls of white cast concrete and makes a complex figure that is distinctive from every angle. At the centre of the composition, the tower that marks the entrance to the museum is the landmark for the city. 

The arrangement of the galleries, with their different scales and aspects, provides a sequence of spaces with a variety and rhythm for the changing exhibitions and collection displays. There is a careful balance between the specific qualities that make art spaces distinct, and the general characteristics that allow flexibility of use. There is no distinction between collection galleries and temporary exhibition spaces. All the galleries can be used together, and there is maximum flexibility in how art can be installed

The gardens are designed as a place for artists’ commissions, for sculpture and for pavilions and are arranged with open lines of trees and spaces extending outwards from the museum without apparent boundaries, to remind visitors of the flat and extensive landscapes that surround the city, at the edge between the farm and the forest.

The design was made in collaboration with the Latvian practice Jaunromāns un Ābele.