Definition. Inhabitants adaptation of architecture. This category reviews their symbiotic relationship with the buildings and reflects on the general feeling of space.
I didn’t know anything else. There were a stadium, climbing bars, willow, and half tires where you could climb. It was quite nice! Eva
The minimal design accumulated with granny’s cultural layers. And frightening soviet lifts, which I used nevertheless. K
Blocks of flats remind me of visiting granny and grandpa in Jelgava. Those flats and courtyards remind me of childhood. Very pleasant memories. Always when I’m in the stairwell and go to my flat, I feel the scent of pancakes or boiled potatoes. It reminds me of home and gives me a pleasant feeling. Because food means well-being. Although I have been to other flats when visiting friends and classmates. Those gave me a gloomy and dark impression. In my opinion, it depends on the smells in the stairwell. For example, the smell of cigarettes is unpleasant, but the scent of flowers that are put on the mailboxes at the entrance of the flat gives you a pleasurable feeling. In granny and grandpa’s house, there were always flowers near the entrance. Santa
The project's authors didn’t think of me as an individual with his wants and needs but as a cog wheel in the political mechanism. Living here is like being a part of the old ideology. Hearing neighbors, small kitchens, and bathrooms. Design that is not directed towards “bourgeoisie” leisure or social gatherings but on living as a utilitarian experience. Kate
Our current flat's doors are very close to our neighbour’s. When they’re opening their door, it sounds exactly like our door is opening. When you’re alone at home, and you know that at this time nobody should come home, you get a creepy feeling. You have to get used to this, especially at night. Evija
I like the reminder that we all come from somewhere and everything is connected over time and space. Liene
I liked that everyone had more or less the same flats and you could go to your friends at any moment without warning. Nothing has helped me to understand people more than blocks of flats. Once I almost fell out off the balcony. Vilis
You must try to know how it is. And it looks like the issues of flats buildings still need to be addressed. They know how to build but can’t make a functional society in these houses. I like what Grassroots architects are doing in poor neighborhoods worldwide. They listen to all the residents instead of forcing their solutions on others. They leave the classical top-down and create bottom-up. Kate
In childhood, those spaces seemed vast, but now when you’re in the blockhouse district, the yards don’t seem that huge. Not to talk about those two-room flats. A. S.
Ha, firstly, you can climb high and look at everything from the top. And generally, a nice feeling to be in a block of flats. It feels like each block has its aura. And it’s nostalgic. Mersedese
The stairwells always have a distinctly unpleasant smell, and the walls are of a strange color. Every block of flats I've ever been to has a peculiar smell in the stairwell. All smell almost the same, but each building has its own. And it's never pleasant, but you get used to it and develop a relationship with it. Some buildings with common corridors usually have all kinds of junk stored there – strollers, sleds, shelves with jam, or who knows what. Inside the flats, especially those built in the 70s & 80s, there is barely enough space to move around and keep all your things. The strangest part is that the flats are all the same - even in different cities, you will find flats with the same layout. Peter
When you see the sky and feel the open space, it seems like you’re in the country. Signe
The lift was always out of service. I was afraid of entering the elevator, which always had cigarette burn marks on the walls or some missing button. Kitija
Sometimes there is pee in an elevator; otherwise, all is okay. I’ve heard that there are criminal districts, but personally, I haven’t experienced that kind of situation. Karline
In the flat beneath me, the neighbour used to have a goat on the balcony. Anastasija
My whole childhood, I lived in blocks of flats and never knew how it is when you have a high ceiling that lets you breathe and think. And the sound of the neighbour banging his pork chops also seems further away. Dita
I remember how someone always said that it would collapse soon. Andris
At my mum’s house, the roof was open, and during the summer, I climbed up to study for exams, and sometimes I fell asleep. Once a washing machine flooded six floors down. The water was going through power sockets, from the ceiling, everywhere. Everyone was running between floors and yelling at each other. I don’t remember how it ended. Marijana
If you look from the convenience side of things – everything needed is at arm’s length: schools, health centers, sports fields, and public transport. And sometimes also most of your friends. Ieva

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by Artūts Tols

Embracing unintended consequences

vvvvThe post-soviet landscape is often underscored by issues of language, as the building of vast concrete districts often came with a Russian workforce that stayed when the equipment had left. But there is the more abstract language of the built environment that is more often felt rather than talked about. It is a collection of spatial conditions that only people with a shared experience of those buildings know.
vvvvAs with everything that is planned rather than spontaneous or natural, the block-housing environment is imbued with the idea of intention. Informed, yet misguided ideas of what living should be like, modernist experiments with building density, orientation, materials, and so on, only demonstrate their true reality after years. The character of a place is determined by quirks and accidents, eventually revealed through stories.      
vvvvAt the back of stairwells in panel buildings of series 602 in Riga as well as many others, there is a second entrance with a short staircase and a canopy. Designed to allow egress to both the streetside and the backyard side of the building, they have nevertheless been in most cases closed, either to limit heat loss or better control access. In some cases, its small foyer is joined to the adjacent apartment to form a small business, such as a beauty salon or a hairdresser.
vvvvOtherwise, if it is in a favorable, quiet location, it is used as a hangout space for small groups of young people, hanging out after or during school hours. This has frequently
been an annoyance to nearby inhabitants, as its visitors can be loud and leave rubbish after themselves. Without knowing it, its designers had created a congregational space, a specific architectural typology, something that can be found in many contemporary schools’ and universities’ entrance halls, at once a small theatre and a place to rest, chat and have fun.      
vvvvLike the front garden in terraced housing and the courtyard in urban environments, the backyard and its second подъезд (podyesd, or ‘poģītis’ used in Latvia to mean ‘entrance’ or ‘stairs’) is an important interface of the block housing habitat. It is both symbolic of a type of building, as well as the urban environment within which it sits. But most importantly, places like this are a container of collective memories that span time as well as location. People bond over similar experiences they have had there across the city or even in different parts of the country. Unlike social housing architecture in western Europe, the panel houses of post-soviet countries have not seen reconstruction or at least a cultural rebirth quite yet. Not because of trauma, but a vague sense that forgetting, rather than remembering might be better. For a place to develop, however, a degree of care must be deployed, an idea of embracing the built reality as-is, seeing its quirks not as a burden, but as a collection of opportunities to connect.

Artūrs is an architect and member of the collective Progress Archeology. The collective invites people to look at Latvian 20th-century architecture through a critical prism, observing and trying to rediscover the peculiarities and methods of construction of this period.
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