The 1989 Baltic Way political demonstration, in which two million people formed a human chain along the three Baltic countries in a nonviolent protest against Soviet occupation, is celebrated with this proposal by Wandoy Studio.
Seattle based architects Sarah Wan and Aidan Doyle describe the importance of this historic event on the studio’s webpage: “A seemingly ordinary gesture — side-by-side, hands held — became elevated to symbolize the peaceful, unconquerable strength of the multitude. This desire was unique to the peoples of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania but is a message common to us all today.”
Wandoy Studio’s proposal was selected in January 2016 as the winner of the Baltic Way Memorial competition in Riga, Latvia.
“We hope the Baltic Memorial may represent the collective bond each of us shares. That sitting on the edge of one of the capital city’s busiest streets, the project may stimulate attention and recognition for one of Europe’s pivotal cultural events. For us, the project is symbol, memory and place for a generation of new ideas.”, state the architects.
“We have used the challenge of the elongated site as a way of distributing three distinct forms, suggestive of three unique cultures. Each separate, but inextricably linked.”, they add.
Three load-bearing forms shelter a panelized glass dome, which houses a public amphitheater and reflection pool at the center. Each form hosts one of the project’s three main programs: an exhibition space, a souvenir shop and a café. Independent on the ground level, the three forms rise above and gradually join at a height of 65 meters.
Within, on the southwest side of the sunken amphitheater a gentle waterfall cascades into the reflection pool. Looking across the pool and waterfall, there is a strong visual connection to the Daugava River. All program is easily accessible through the open plan. A long display wall to the rear of the space is meant to act as compliment to the more in-depth stories within the exhibition space.
Riga’s skyline and its many recognizable spires was part of the architects’ formal inspiration. With St. Peter’s and Riga Cathedral on either side of the site, the 65-meter high memorial and its tapered shape would complement the scenery and be seen from every direction.
“The Baltic Memorial should embody the powerful spirit that unites a people. Though we may be separated by perceived national, political, or religious boundaries we are united by more than sometimes we are aware”, concludes the duo.