Zuzeum | by Annvil

Over the course of the 20th century, many of Riga’s industrial buildings have lost their original functions. This has left an abundance of empty historic buildings ripe for adaptation; an approach which is increasingly contributing to the Latvian capital’s reputation as a cultural centre, as creatives and entrepreneurs find new ways to repurpose the city’s existing assets.

Local design practice Annvil has revitalised a former cork factory, built in 1910, as Zuzeum – a 4,000 sq m gallery for the world’s largest private collection of Latvian art, owned by collectors Dina and Jānis Zuzāni. Over 20,000 pieces of work – including painting, sculpture and design – are spread over two galleries. Additionally, the site includes a sculpture garden, workshop, café, roof terrace and art shop, creating a mixed-use approach that maximises the functionality of the building and encourages visitors to stay longer.

Located between Riga’s historical centre and the future Rail Baltica line – which will link the Baltics into the wider Euopean rail network – the yellow-brick building, with its tall chimney, is a typical example of Riga’s former industrial architecture. At the site entrance, Annvil has utilised a large outdoor area, enclosed on three sides, to create a new communal meeting space for the city. Here, the scheme’s most dominant feature – a ‘carpet’ of striking orange – welcomes visitors to the museum, leading them to the main building.

The bold use of colour becomes Zuzeum’s identity and is intended to stimulate an active, engaged experience; orange, says the design team, is a colour of ‘adventure and social interaction’. Inside, orange elements punctuate an otherwise white interior by highlighting doorways and stairwells, acting as a wayfinding device that further draws visitors through the building.

The original industrial structure – while painted – is visible throughout, and the original factory’s brick chimney cuts through one of the galleries, grounding the building in its evolving metropolitan context.

Annvil founder Anna Bates describes the project as ‘a very important moment for the city’, both in terms of attracting interest in the arts and in creatively reusing Riga’s existing buildings. Zuzeum celebrates these two cultural characteristics of Riga by providing a community asset, inspired by the past, that looks to the future.

This article was originally written for ICON magazine
Photos | Norbert Tukaj