NRJA reconstructs the red dome of the Riga circus with interlocking wooden panels

Reconstruction of Riga Circus by NRJA

Design firm NRJA (No rules Just Architecture) takes over the rebuild a project of Rigas Cirks, the prominent circus in Riga, Latvia. Originally built in 1888 by architect Johann Friedrich Baumann, the Rigas Cirks building is the only permanent circus building in the Baltic States and one of the oldest in Europe, considered an architectural building. monument national importance. The structure is combined a brick frame with arena, specifically dedicated to circus acts with horses, covered by an unheated dome twenty-four meters in diameter. The historic formation of the dome has sixteen columns made from railway tracks. With only one restoration attempt during the 135 years of the circus’s run, held in 1953, activities have been suspended several times due to the poor technical condition of the building.

Following the design principle of ‘add by subtracting’, the creative studio undertakes radical conservation removing layers ready to be detached by decay, revealing hidden historical architectural details, and leaving no unsightly elements behind the cover. hide The hidden aspect of time is revealed through conscientious repair. The accumulated historical cultural layers are the main source of sensory experience in the reconstructed circus building. Together with a number of reconstruction techniques and energy efficiency improvement measures, the renovation establishes a specially implemented CLT wooden paneled vault preserving the original framework.

NRJA reconstructs the red dome of the Riga circus with interlocking wooden panels
all images by Vladimirs Svetlovs, Aleksandrs Kendenkovs, Uldis Lukševics, Reinis Liepiņš

a panel vault system preserves the historic architecture

In order to reflect the substantial changes and prevent the critical technical condition of the building, the architectural concept for the restoration of the historic building should design group NRJA in collaboration with architect Ilze Mekša pursues a vision for the transformation of the circus into a multifunctional cultural site. The main aim of the project is to insulate the building and improve its energy efficiency to preserve the historical architecture of Rigas Cirks and to carry out basic basic works to ensure the functioning of the centre.

Analysis of the historic building reveals foundationless walls, uninsulated roofs, and other unusual construction techniques, such as temporary reclaimed wood construction used to support the 130-year-old arena. The restorative plan implements a CLT panel vault with the structure and workloads required by various executive actions. As the original metal structure has lost its bearing capacity, a parallel construction of a new network of columns and a wooden panel system keeps the historic frame unburdened and exposed. The interconnected panels implement individual design elements to create a spherical, self-supporting shape. The smooth, solid internal plane improves energy efficiency. On top of the dome is a steel ring structure and the restored original lantern.

NRJA reconstructs the red dome of the Riga circus with interlocking wooden panels

The structure has been completely rebuilt and received remote operated blinds and windows. The various historical layers have been preserved and displayed on the interior, and authentic materials have been restored as much as possible. The logs from the existing stands are saved into registers and used to finish the walls of the area. In order to preserve the brick facade, the perimeter walls are internally insulated and finished with re-cladding.

NRJA reconstructs the red dome of the Riga circus with interlocking wooden panels

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