On February 11-14, 2014 in the framework of cooperation between Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 and the initiative Learner-Explorer-City Dweller of young architects from the Latvian Association of Architects, the pilot project for one of the USER pilot territories – the Square of Latvian Riflemen –was implemented with an active participation of schoolchildren.
The goal of Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 and the initiative Learner-Explorer-City Dweller was to design a methodology that would involve schoolchildren in redevelopment of public space.
The Square of Latvian Riflemen– one of USER pilot territories in Riga – was selected as a sample site. The schoolchildren of neighbouring Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 – users of the square – were involved to develop a vision for the public space according to their needs.
34 schoolchildren and students from 3 different age groups: age 13-14, age 15-16 and age 17-18 participated in a creative workshop A Square For Me. Different age groups were organised in teams of 11-12 persons. Two architects and also experts from the City Development Department of the Riga City Council joined each workshop. The level of discussion was adapted to perception ability of younger schoolchildren by teaching older students to have a respectful attitude to a different opinion by finding successful cooperation.
Development of the vision for the Square of Latvian Riflemen was started by the research of the current situation. Schoolchildren explored the site by seeing the square through the eyes of a city planner. They observed people in their daily routine and analysed functional use of the square.
In the research process of the site the questionnaires were filled-in by answering questions and also giving a brief explanation to answers. In the creative workshop the viewpoints were summarized by way of discussion. Team groups presented the results of research analysis to each other. The schoolchildren were searching for solutions to improve functionality of the square according to their needs. On the basis of the elaborated vision they developed a spatial model with changeable modelling patterns and scaling elements (a crowd of people, cars, and bicycles). Each team analysed the selected function, way and possible arrangement of users in the square by reflecting them afterwards in a spatial model.
Vision of schoolchildren from age group 13-14:
Cheerful, lively, green and cosy square for relaxation and entertainment with an accent on its history: the Latvian Riflemen Monument and the Museum of Occupation of Latvia being located near the school. The Square and the Embankment is linked by a pedestrian bridge to evolve the empty and draughty square.
Vision of schoolchildren from age group 15-16:
Well-arranged square with two separate zones: calm and active. Historical objects both: the Square of Latvian Riflemen and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia have been integrated into organised events there.
Vision of students from age group 17-18:
Well-arranged square for relaxation and meeting possibilities: facade of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is improved; the Latvian Riflemen Monument is accented. The Square and the Embankment is linked by an underground tunnel with a waiting shed on the ground surface. Transport flow under the Stone (Akmens) Bridge is closed expanding the pedestrian zone along the Daugava Embankment.