Riga Airport

LAVA’s design for a new airBaltic terminal integrates Latvia’s provincial beauty with the future of air travel.
The design is inspired by regional imagery: pines, oaks, linden trees, amber and ladybugs. It is also infused with global concerns: sustainability, ease of movement, environmental efficiency, commercial viability, connectivity and leisure.

The terminal’s ovoid form recalls the Latvian ladybug. It glows, its amber shades reflecting the local landscape and history. From the land, the building appears to float, and rise above the landscape.
The iconic ladybug form has two caterpillar‐like arms stretching out onto the tarmac.

The main entrance is flanked by two, thirty‐metre high, amber coloured ovoid windows, facing verdant stands of oaks and linden trees. These forests, together with an ancient oak in the central hall, give the sense and smell of the Latvian landscape and create the airport’s iconography.

The rising form of the naturally ventilated car park, with its green roof, brings traffic to departures level, allowing nature and artifice to meld. Latvian tradition is subtly interpreted through the use of Jugendstil and other architectural details.

The main terminal is wrapped in warm Latvian timber, with its surface gently curving out and around the central courtyard with its grand oak tree. The terminal is designed as a large destination space, with relaxing sight lines in, through and out of the airport, generating visual excitement for the traveller.

Shapes and colours come from melding the Baltic landscape with history ‐ standing stones/amber ‐ as well as bringing the forest into the heart of the terminal through the use of wood, and the landscape in and around the terminal. These materials give a strong sense of seasons that is enhanced by the strong
visual link to the surrounding landscape through the large windows.

The geometry of the terminal structure is based on surface tension, a cost effective design to build. The shell has been designed to be free of services, sitting clear of the decks. All the services come from below, direct to the deck areas. Utilities are located centrally, below the building, designed with long‐term
operation and maintenance in mind.

The basis of the functional design is taking a complex set of movements and relationships and making them simple, easy to use, with operational efficiency and sustainability. The jet bridges and bus gates, for example, are stacked over in the pier, ensuring functional and operational efficiency. Sustainability is not just in and of the building. It is also how the building connects and integrates. Sustainable features abound: low‐carbon, geothermal heating/cooling, tri‐generation, water collection and circulation for re‐use, maximized natural light, passive design principles, flexible solar roof and bees used as a key environmental indicator.

The geothermal system draws air through the skin, heated in the geothermal field, with stale air used to heat the car park, with heat exchangers also used to recapture heat for incoming air. Airflow is through the floor ‐ cool air in summer and warm air in winter. Solar collectors on the roof supplement this, and
generate electricity and hot water. Gas tri‐generation backs all this up. Water is collected in the central courtyard, siphoned into storage, treated and re‐used throughout the building. The honey from bee hives on the car park tests for air and pollution indicators. The terminal is built into a hill, as a solution to energy
efficiency and sustainable design. A tree‐covered hill is a car park.

This Hub of the Future embraces cutting edge technologies for the 21st century yet looks like a piece of amber in the forest catching the stray sunbeam.

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  • Nadezhda Nikolova
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