The winning project proposal of Hotel Liesma by Ventura Trindade Architects recovers the concept of old ‘estrãdês’, simple outdoor structures formed by a stage with an acoustic shell and a flat audience, in front.The building acts like a system of visual and functional relation with the theme of the music box (resonance box), with visual resonance in the collective memory of the guests and general population.
The coast of Jurmala is full of fascinating constructions, like the former restaurant ‘Juras Perle’, the Baltic Beach Hotel, cantilevered over the beach and horizon, or even the Dubulti station, with its impressive canopy and Art Nouveau constructions implanted right on the beach. More recently other projects equally reveal the fascinating moment the country is crossing, after years of foreign dominance, like the Majori Sports Arena or the Dzintaru Park Observation Tower.
But in the same way that the ability to imagine the future is something absolutely necessary for the culture and development of a country, the knowledge of its historical heritage is also the base on which any future could be built. In Jurmala there is a historical legacy even more important than the spectacle of its recent projects: the traditional wooden constructions, the importance which music acquired locally and afterwards spread internationally, the richness of its forest area, the beauty of its coastline, sheltered from the Baltic by the Gulf of Riga.
Jurmala lives in and by these crossroads of ideals: between the history and tradition of the local culture – in which both architecture and music are inserted – and an enormous expectation about its own future.
Despite the existence of various concert halls in Jurmala and Riga, the outdoor events continue to be a tradition strongly rooted in the local culture, as demonstrated in the outdoor auditorium of Dzintari Concert Hall. Wood, with a solid tradition in construction in Latvia (the Riga pine wood is used worldwide) is also the material par excellence in the making of musical instruments as well as the spaces conceived for musical audition. And for those reasons it overlays the surfaces of the exterior pavements and of some facades in the project. It is even the selected material of the indoor public spaces, providing the creation of adequate acoustic conditions for the realization of small musical events, throughout all the Hotel spaces.
The rooms are, on the contrary, covered on some of its surfaces with sound absorsion materials, as those found in recording studios, for example. The idea is to create sound-proof resting spaces, as a counterpoint to the sound spaces of the public areas of hotel. In analogy with a musical composition, the private spaces are understood as pauses, the silent part of music, as important as the musical notes.
It is intended to constitute a synthesis of the relation of Jurmala with music (a secular legacy signed by world renowned songwriters and musicians, from Krisjãnis Barons to Gidon Kremer), but also the statement of Jurmala as a beach area of excellence in Latvia and Riga in particular, and of the Baltic in general.
Withdrawn from the beach by a densely wooded range, the current building does not take advantage of the visual relation with the sea, which make other hotel equipments in the region particularly attractive. The average tree height varies between 20 and 25 meters. However, the building regulations allow for constructions up to 37 meters in height (10 floors), as found in the existing structure.
The organizational scheme proposed is, in a way, opposite to the traditional hotel scheme, like the pre-existing building, which is normally based on the disposition of a horizontal block housing the public spaces and areas of greater dimension, opposed to a vertical block which organizes the rooms, in a hierachical form. The proposed structure is based on the creation of a broad elevated floor, with 60X60 meters, simultaneously forming a roof over the exterior access spaces and organizing the more important public spaces of the Hotel, like the halls (restaurant and conference and banqueting center), indoor swimming pool and spa, gym and bar, with a magnificent view of the Baltic and Riga, from far, over the green cloak of the surrounding forests.
Supported on three independent but interconnected blocks and three support and infrastructure distribution columns, this crowning is the counterpoint of a base constituted by two levels which enable the separation of public access and service circulations, creating a high multifunctional square. On the other hand, the ‘high square’ works as a staging of the arrival at the Hotel, assigning a kind of scenic sense to the guests and other clients reception.
The roof of the reception is a wooden platform, which can work as a stage facing the outdoor square. The adjacent facade, with wooden door enclosed balconies, and the wooden ceiling formed by the upper block, build a resonance box which allows to organize concerts or other occasional events, resuming the logic of the outdoor stages common in the various parks of the region.
The whole program is organized, fundamentally, in two vertical blocks of rooms and two horizontal blocks of public and service areas. The first refer to Block A (existing structure, to fully maintain), which organizes the predicted 120 rooms (84 standart rooms, 18 family rooms, 12 business rooms, 6 junior suites, plus 1 presidential suite); Block C will organize 57 additional rooms, as requested, in an indepedent building, although interconnected at the base and crowning, which enables the realization of the construction without impairing the functioning of the main block. In a first phase only the vertical access core of this block shall be built.
Block E corresponds to the top floor, which houses the public program, with an indoor height of 7 meters. Block D contains almost all the service areas and is organized lengthwise from the loading and unloading and service access, to the west (Salacas Iela), until connecting to the other blocks, at the lower level. It faces North, towards the parking patio, remaining embedded relatively to the square, to the South. On the last floor, providing direct support to the restaurant, bar and conference and banqueting center, exists a dishwashing service area and buffet support.
There is a third vertical block, to the East, which organizes a loading and unloading access to the top floor, served by a heavy-weight lift and emergency staircase. At the top of the high square the reception is located, along with the lobby and lobby bar, in a space with double interior height which connects from the inside to Block A, pre-existing.
Both circulations of people and vehicles, as well as of guests and service personnel, are separated from each other, which is achieved thanks to the two levels at the basement. Therefore, the high square is reached by guests on foot (or by vehicle but according to a ‘stop and go’ system), through the main access ramp (Dubultu Prospekts) or from the opposite ramp for access to the beach. Below, the atrium is prepared for receiving luggage, mobility impaired guests or VIP’s. The vehicles essentially circulate at this level, revolving at the circular patio and following to the parking along the site’s internal service route.
It is also on this floor that the service personnel circulation is done, between Block D and the room blocks A and C, using the service elevator of each block. In Block A, given the great amount of rooms, there is an area for cleaning and laundry, on some floors, connecting through a technical shaft with the main housekeeping area on the 1st floor. In Block C the equivalent shaft is dedicated to collecting garbage from the top dishwashing area.
The structure of Block A, existing, is maintained, having the vertical access cores reinforced, which will serve as a support for the upper floor (Block E). The future block of additional rooms, C, has a vertical access core which works as a second support for the superior structure. To the East, the block of the heavy-weight lift constitutes a third main support for the upper block. At the same time, three other complementary columns exist, of a circular section, which enable the passing of infrastructures from the base to the crowning.
The base, formed by the service block (D), the reception and high square, unifies the various vertical concrete cores which uphold the superior public floor (Block E), this being built in a metalic truss structure, pre-fabricated, with pavements in collaborative slab formwork, which enormously facilitates the execution of high rise works. The structure is relatively conventional in terms of dimensioning and construction. The building process is equally simple and consists on the mounting of a fixed central crane, in the North patio (Patio 01), in which its arm covers all of the construction area and is supported during the mounting of the trusses by two mobile cranes which precisely position the pieces in place, allowing for the welding of the next truss legs.
These mobile cranes serve almost exclusively to proceed with the positioning of the truss leg, since the weight is held by the central crane. After mounting the main trusses, all of the remaining construction is executed only with the help of the central crane.
The building functions like a system which creates climatic attenuation conditions (protection, shelter) and heating retention (since the top floor works like a reflective ceiling of heat emanated from the building). The wooden overlays of the facades and exterior ceilings allow to increase the thermal insulation on the interior, beyond providing acoustic conditions and visual comfort, especially considering the low winter temperatures. In the winter it is possible to close the patios of the upper block, through horizontal skylights operated manually or mechanically. Therefore, the heat from the sun rays which cross this glass roof are maintained below the general ceiling.
In the summer these skylights are open, creating a chimney effect which naturally ventilates the space below the roof. This superior block, functioning as a roof of the whole, offers shelter from the rain and snow over the entrance spaces and room facades. In the summer, as opposed, shade is provided. The fact that the whole is organized in various blocks enables natural cross ventilation of the interior spaces, in order to avoid excessive humidity accumulation.
All the water collected on the great roof, as well as the water gathered in the square, is channeled to a reservoir located below the circular square. The transparent roofs of the indoor swimming pool and gym are fitted with photovoltaic collector panels, for accumulating electric energy, and thermal collectors, for heating sanitary hot water, which, together, help cover a great part of the energy necessities of this main upper block. A radiant ceiling system, for heating the interior air, helps melt the snow on the roof, avoiding excessive accumulation. Located in the service block, D, next to the service entrance, are the hot water production generators, using natural gas or a tank to be located on the site.
The circuits of infrastructure distribution are made above the service corridor ceilings and through the shafts of the vertical access cores. Since, in the future, there will be two independent blocks of rooms, it will be possible to only use one depending on the occupancy rate that is established in each season of the year, thus substantially decreasing the costs for cleaning and heating of the spaces. The embankment which forms the high square can absorb all the non-polluting debris from the demolition of the existing constructions, as well as the excess dirt resulting from the excavation for implanting the new constructions, avoiding economic and environmental costs which would be a result of the transporting of the waste to landfills.
The project tried to create something that gathers the history of the place, its musical tradition, its unique geographic location, with the impulse of modernity which comes from its still recent independence as a country. A functional and symbolic construction, like an acoustic box, like the ‘estrâdes’ that proliferate through the various parks of the region, like a resonance box of a musical instrument, a guitar, a ‘kokle’.
But which can also be associated to the rattan structures that at the beginnig of the 20th century ponctuated these beachs, sheltering the holidaymakers from the wind and the sun. And following this, we could even, symbolically, find similarities with the old fishing boats, made of wood.
More than replicating a shape, finding analogies too direct which could easily be converted into caricatures of that which is intended to enhance, we sought to reinterpretate those structures in an admittedly contemporary design.
Related links: Ventura Trindade Architects