Nine centuries in Kalēju Quarter

News - September 22, 2019

This year the reconstruction of two buildings in the Kalēju Quarter – where Bank has embarked on the refurbishing of the oldest construction structures in Riga - will be completed. 

Kalēju Street and its surroundings are one of the oldest parts of Riga – development of the city started here in 13th century. There was a harbour on the banks of Rīdzene River, and later the city fortification wall was built here protecting Riga until the 19th century. Baltic International Bank launches an ambitious project – completely reconstruct five buildings in the Kalēju and Vecpilsētas Streets, transforming this quarter of the Old Riga into a public space providing historical evidence on the development of city in this place within perspective of nine centuries. This place will combine culturally historical heritage with an attractive office environment for the Bank’s employees.

Instead of skyscraper – investment in culturally historical values

Bank’s management came up with the idea to establish Kalēju Quarter approximately five years ago when it was decided to merge two significant goals – create modern premises for the needs of the growing investment bank and maintain culturally historical evidence on the formation and development of Riga. “This project is perfectly in line with the worldview of the Bank’s management. Maintain and renovate historical values, instead of tearing them down and building a skyscraper. This is the true beginning of Riga, place where the Bishop Albert founded the capital of Latvia,” emphasizes Irina Armanova, Project Manager for Real Estate Development of Baltic International Bank.

Reconstruction process of five buildings starts with architecturally – artistic inventory of all buildings, initial site study performed by archaeologists (territory was scanned within 5 metres depth) and project design competition. Five architect’s bureaus with experience in the project implementation in Old Riga was invited to participate in the competition and team of experts recognized the vision of the architect’s bureau “Ivara Šļivkas birojs” as the best.

Each building with a unique story

“Several times in this place buildings were constructed, torn down and constructed again within nine centuries period. This is a very multi-layered history we will try to preserve and demonstrate, as far as possible, – show some elements, signs from each era,” tells Ivars Šļivka, Architect of the ambitious project. He highlights, – this is one of the challenges an architect should not miss. “Entire quarter in Old Riga! Unique possibility as today rarely we can find investors willing to invest in the reconstruction of the cultural heritage.”

Architect explains that already from the first project implementation day, the concept was based on three tasks: reveal and reconstruct unique historical layers of the less known part of Old Riga; transform this place into yet another public space and jewel of Old Riga; also built modern premises for the Bank. “I feel sorry for Old Riga, as many beautiful buildings are turning into ruins. We are given a chance to create another jewel of the cultural heritage of Riga from ruins. Emphasize various historical layers of this place – each building has its own story, elements of the quarter tells vivid stories of the past,” says I. Šļivka.

Five buildings, courtyard, restaurant and museum

In total Kalēju Quarter consists of five buildings and courtyard. First project stage will be completed in the end of this year – reconstruction of two historical buildings. The current size of the Bank’s office building in 43 Kalēju Street will remain unaltered, building structures will be refurbished, as well as communication networks, and entrance in the quarter will be established here. Building from the side of Vecpilsētas Street will remain in the structure of six stories, preserving the historical façade of the building. Two stories will be added to the four-storied building of the quarter, two more buildings will be significantly refurbished. Two furnaces of the Kalēju Quarter buildings are recognized as valuable culturally historical interior elements but epitaph (dated with 16th century) in the façade of the Vecpilsētas Street building is recognized as the State Cultural Monument. Also historical staircase will be reconstructed.

It is planned to complete the reconstruction in 2022, creating public space in the first stories of the buildings – with courtyard concerts and exhibitions, stores located in the gallery, as well as restaurant and Money Museum. Upper stories of the buildings will be the new office premises for the Bank providing modern and comfortable working environment for the Bank’s employees. Separate Riga fortification elements will be exposed to public.

Bank will allocate nearly EUR 12 million in the development of the quarter. Many construction elements are made in Latvia, besides project includes also historical wooden elements taken from old constructions and recycled into new materials. The entire complex of buildings is constructed with special energy efficient solutions that is a great challenge in Old Riga as insulation of external walls of buildings are prohibited in this part of city.

Project in 105 volumes

The project is complicated both in terms of design and planning, as well as coordination and construction. The quarter is located on the territory of the great architectural monument of national cultural importance “Historic Centre of the City of Riga”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Centre of Riga” and an archaeological monument of national cultural importance “Archaeological Complex of the Old Riga”. Implementation of the project is divided into two parts, the entire vision of architects and engineers summarized into 105 volumes.

“We adjusted every detail, for example, reviewed how the roofs of Kalēju Quarter building will look from the tower of St. Peter’s Church,” I. Armanova characterises the project implementation process. Before project planning Bank ordered in-depth archaeological research, results of which indicated that this place was densely populated and used for economic activities already from the origins of the Riga in 13th century, also three-dimensional measurements of five buildings, courtyard and surrounding buildings were performed.

Planning and coordination process of Kalēju Quarter took two years, construction was started in 2018, and archaeologists are working alongside construction workers during entire project implementation period.

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