Picnic in Sarkandaugava? No, it is ‘Good Place TALKA’!

Picnic in Sarkandaugava? No, it is ‘Good Place TALKA’!
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014 . founder of ‘Association for Development of Sarkandaugava’ Alija Turlaja
29-05-2013 A+ A-
It is week-day evening in Sarkandaugava. A screen of Sarkandaugava sites in 3D is placed behind the public bus stop of ‘Tilta street’ on Alekša square, collapsible chairs appear, several professional architects busily inspect and photograph the green patch. Dmitry who is from this neighborhood emphatically collects the litter of tins and broken glass richly covering the ground into a trash bag. What we see is warming-up for ‘Good Place TALKA’– collaborative workshop and pooling of ideas to be held here on Friday, May 31, where everyone living in Sarkandaugava is invited to express their opinions and ideas about improvement of the area on the crossing of Alekša and Tiltu streets.

‘Imagine – a workshop! Lots of people can build a shed, say, in no time. One brings up the planks, another one – hammers them; others find other work and the shed is up. This is the process of how idea-pooling works: everyone is assigned a task, a role, which, performed, in a process of play, liberates people, and the ideas begin to swarm, one better than the other,’ one of the organizers of the up-coming brainstorming game Mārcis Rubenis explains. He is already experienced leader of such playfully-serious events. Rubenis underlines that this process is difficult to describe, it must be lived and only experience can make a master.

‘TALKAS of ideas’ are events for sharing ideas, knowledge, intuition and readiness to act in order to achieve more as a group than would be possible separately.

Creative forces of ‘IdeaTALKA’ and Contemporary Architecture Information Center (CAIC) were joined to bring about ‘Good Place TALKA’ and create elements of environment design. Alekša square in Sarkandaugava is pilot project of ‘Good Place TALKA’ for the programs of collaboration and improvement of environment in several neighborhoods of Riga.

Transit zone, traffic, yes, …incessant traffic, tram line; a tram with mirrors, rays, a light-reflecting wall. Merry-go-round powered by the force of traffic… rational ideas mingle with completely irrational ones. The team of architects who have arrived to examine the site for the first time are Toms Kokins, Evelīna Ozola and Reinis Adovičs.



‘The first thing I see here is traffic – very busy and multi-directional. It scrambles your ability to perceive the human potential of the place. It is one of those places which only allow appreciating their use for transit. Now, I am racking my head on how to derive a ‘cross-stream’ here,’ architect Toms Kokins reveals his first impression of the place. He calls the very small and humble Alekša square a difficult place. And yet professional is content as that was the kind of place they had looked for.

The choice of the place was our collective decision and we asked for a possibly complicated, more degraded territory, which would raise a challenge. Now, we want to discern the means and the mode of improving this environment.

Toms perceives a problem in the lack of connection with the territory of the clinic on Tvaika street, on the other side of the artery; they should be made to meet: ‘There is a very beautiful territory behind that white stone wall – rich greenery, a football field. It should be made more accessible to people. Although a hospital territory, it is partly open already. It is more closed mentally than otherwise. Prejudice against Tvaika street clinic must also be one of the not insignificant factors. Thus, if we are able to prove that a great deal of the prejudice is not quite grounded, this project will acquire a higher added value.’

Sarkandaugava girl ‘since grade six’ and full of admirable energy and conviction that the passivity of neighborhood people observed so far, will be thawed, Alija Turlaja is coordinator and, as she says herself, the paper worker of ‘Good Place TALKA’. She founded ‘Association for Development of Sarkandaugava’ about a year ago, which has incentivized the district for the Big Clean-up and other activities. Her plan to revive the old-river of Sarkandaugava, called the Stinker or just the Ditch among the locals for years, by method of phytomelioration deserves a separate story.



Their activities have not been left without support; school directors of programs and representatives of youth center ‘Laimīte’ have been addressed. Big Clean-up, for example, had gathered around 70 locals at the banks of old-river regardless of the foul weather.

‘Sarkandaugava is a proxi-port neighborhood where environment has been not a priority. Unfortunately, this is how we continue to perceive our reality,’ Alija motions at dirty, uncut Alekša square. ‘But staying indoors means that people do not communicate and if they don’t, no ideas emerge and everything goes downhill.’

‘Good Place TALKA’ accepts everything… even a stair-case to heaven, if someone would wish to see it built.

‘Let people get creatively liberated and let the strangest and unrealistic ideas be juggled! Besides, people know best what is needed in their surroundings the most and not some planner who sits in his office and draws schemes on a sheet of paper,’ Alija laughs.

‘It is important for this project to get people to spend more time in open air, so that they would wish to linger in this place. But the accent will be precisely an atmosphere of game and getting involved. If there is a bench, it is more than just a place to sit down, but offers more – you can re-order it, build the second level or slide down from it. It is important for it to be interesting across generations and for these elements of environment to be used and not just remain installed there. We call them elements of game design – those require such far-fetched ideas,’ the founder of ‘Association for Development of Sarkandaugava’ says. 

Asked to sketch a vision of future, Alija also emphasizes the presence of active traffic: ‘This place is noisy and full of commotion – an open, active square. I see it as a place for a short stop-over to eat an ice-cream in. It could be used variably – as spot to sell Christmas trees and even as a site for pop-up open-air exhibitions.

All of that could be possible even without these improvements, of course, but they are necessary for people to have lent their shoulder to the process as well. Their attitude changes radically as soon as the place is ordered and beautiful.

We will remind that ‘Good Place TALKA’ on Alekša square in Sarkandaugava will be held on May 31 at 15.00 and continue at 15.30 in the youth center ‘Laimīte’ on Sarkandaugavas str. 24. Apply for ‘Good Place TALKA’ here!

‘Good Place TALKA’ is 'Riga 2014' program project as part of 'Road Map' thematic line.



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