Definition. Inhabitants adaptation of architecture. This category reviews their symbiotic relationship with the buildings and reflects on the general feeling of space.
There’s some idyll. Edmunds
I didn’t like the view from the window – to another block of flats. Thankfully there is a maple tree in front of the window and lilac bushes. And birds in the spring make the scene gentler. Renate
The only memory that stands out is of the kitchen, where the whole family or guests couldn't gather for a meal or enjoy those cozy kitchen talks. Ieva
Blocks of flats are an essential part of history and the city. They tell stories about the place and build “districts.” From an architectonic point of view, the ones seen in Latvia are not the most successful solutions visually. Sabine
Bad reception. You could chat with a neighbour through walls, so the sound isolation was non-existent. Aivars
When I was little, I was always afraid of not finding my house. I often mixed up poģiki* when I was going home. Then I looked up and tried to find my window. And, if you are so lucky to live on higher floors, you could see far away in the district. When I’m in the Imanta district, I still am afraid of getting lost. Looking up at the sky helps the claustrophobic feelings of these ant hills. *poģiki – stairwells Ieva
I studied art and lived in London, where Brutalism is being glorified. And I can acknowledge the aesthetics of it. Where as I’ve lived in a blockhouse my whole life, and it’s just home to me. Eliza
A while ago, I thought it was depressing, and it is Latvian sub-urbs that make us what we are. Now, as the years pass, I have more joy remembering it. For everyone, their micro-district is unique and different, although they all look the same as the nearest 24/7 booze shop – but if you are not at yours, it's better not to spend too much time there. Kristaps
I’m charmed by the lights in the windows at night when you see each little life framed in a window! I like to come up with stories about residents of these houses who live next to each other but have no idea about it. I still like it. Elina
What comes to my mind is the elevator lobby. Always dark because the light bulb didn’t work, and it was always smelly because it was a loo for many people. The time seemed infinitely long while the door to the elevator was opening. Fear of someone evil attacking from the darkest corner and jumping into the elevator with you before the door closes. Lote
Every flat is like a separate organism with a completely different character, although all the flats in these blocks of flats are connected like tissue, shaping never-dying life. Krista
Copy, paste, paste, paste, paste… Toms
Most of all I like ninth-floor high flats, where there is always warm and sunny, and there is a good view outside the window. Because you don’t have to look at the house you’re inside. Telma
The buildings themselves have been designed thinking economically about quantity, not the quality of life. Flats are small with low ceilings, often bad sound isolation, and low insulation. The exterior of the buildings is white with patterns of cracks, and window frames are found in many colors, the same as the balconies and self-made loggias. The yards are often full of empty alcohol bottles. And you will always find Fēnikss or Olympic (local casino bars) around the corner. Juris
I can’t go outside, in the garden, because there is none. Nevertheless, I have a place to live, and this place fulfills my primary functions of a home. Emils
If someone forgets to turn off the gas – everyone will suffer. Agnese
Looks beautiful when the sun shines and moves over the façade throughout the day. Olga
Feeling of a former home which is why it is always something friendly and familiar. Sabine
I’ve seen thongs with blood in the stairwell. Signe
I’ve got stuck in the lift several times. And the lift service came sooner than tomorrow only because I told them I was here with a pregnant woman. Raimonds
It is somehow sad. Flats and a grocery store. Lots of cars. And that’s it. Madara

share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience

share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience  share your experience I



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.
← essay