Interview with Austris Mailītis, "Esplanāde 2014" architect
Austris Mailītis has already gained his worldwide recognition. There might be someone who does not know that he received „Arhitekta pēda”(„Architect’ s foot”) award from Architecture Promotion Fund. But surely it is known that Mailītis got the award for „EXPO 2010”, architectonic solution of Latvian exhibition pavilion, in Shanghai, China. This waving, eternally moving building gained an instant appreciation from exhibition visitors paving the way for a new job offer in China.
We meet at Esplanāde. It’ s a sunny and warm forenoon, and we are surrounded by a coffee smell. But the lazy pace of „Rīga 2014” creative space works is just an illusion. In fact, Austris Mailītis sounds a bit worried about construction process telling that there are lots of complications. Nevertheless, he notes that everything needs to be done as good as possible.The idea of a space being in an enternal movement always allows improvements and extras.
„The space should become a central object. We hope several cultural events in 2013 and 2014 will be held in there. It will be an open meeting place in Riga centre. Various concerts, conferences and thematic events related to Latvian Song and Dance Festival will happen here. Also cafe and free platform will be open, some plants will be growed. People will be able to fulfill the space with a content,” tells Mailītis.
His idea is to create a transparent and changing space that fulfills the role of a cultural events background. Besides, the space needs to be as open as possible flowing together with a surrounding park and the atmosphere. The space will be growing and changing as nature itself and always on move, similarly as culture.
Austris Mailītis has visited and lived in many foreign cities. Still, he says Riga is a very special and diverse city with a successful mapping. Just like in Vienna, in Riga the old walls were pulled down in order to arrange the parks, the canal and boulevards circle.
„In here, several architecture languages meet in one place. We have a beautifully created city. It reflects a hundred years old contribution from city planners. We have great parts of the new and the old city, Art Nouveau tenement houses, wooden Riga. We also should not slight the Soviet Union heritage. Riga has a harmonic and cool environment, besides, it’s next to the sea also being greener than other cities,” tells Mailītis when speaking of Riga values.
„When I visit a foreign city, I like to just walk around freely, so do my friends when they are in Riga. You can reach various interesting places, people and events during such walks. Spontaneity is the best background for cool things to happen.
It’s worth walking around the city centre, but such places as Pļavnieki, Bolderāja and Āgenskalns are unique, too,” tells the author of „Esplanāde 2014” creative space.
Traditional tourism destinations often include Riga Art Nouveau architecture attracting tourists who take pictures of excellent works of Vilhelms Bokslafs, Mihails Eizenšteins and Konstantīns Pēkšēns. But what kind of pictures takes Mailītis himself when visiting other cities?
„I rarely take pictures of architecture abroad. You can easily find those photos on the internet. In my case, it’ s mostly related to my work.” The most exciting photographiy experience for him was last year, in New York, soon after Sandy hurricane had raged.
„Electricity had gone out in Manhattan, so I took pictures of the city in complete darkness. I lived in Bruklin, so everything was fine with electricity in there. I went by bicycle back to Manhattan, the place that never sleeps. An then, it’ s totally dark like in a big canyon with houses as black shadows. There is only moonlight like I was in some apocalyptic movie. Nobody was there. I got lost but then I recognized a cinema realizing that I’ m in a city centre. A place I have visited so many times. I am more interested in unusual circumstances. What happends to architecture by that time,” tells Mailītis.
Austris Mailītis, most likely, will become well-known with his open-air Grand Stage renovation at Mežaparks. He works together with Ivars Mailītis, an artist who have created stage design of Latvian Song and Dance Festival frequently, and „Arhitekta J. Pogas birojs”.
Together they plan to make the stage as a sanctuary, a mountain, a birch grove where people climb up and sing aloud. It’s Latvian sense, modernity and nature that holds whole idea. These are sacred things for Latvians, thinks Mailītis.
„Song and Dance Festival is one of the greatest rituals of our nation. Because of this event Latvia was even founded. Latvians have proved the importance of this tradition but, still, it’ s ongoing process,” thinks architect.
Of course, a stage built in 1950ies is technically outdated and has many rational problems such as capacity, visitors flow, a bigger shed for rainy days, some additional space for business activities to avoid background noises, and other issues related to modern events management.
Mailītis also notes that creating the identity of Grand Stage is also an important issue. „Current stage was built according to the Soviet Union ideology. Of course, this stage has survived many Song and Dance Festivals, people are engaged to memories, but I believe we can create the identity through stage reconstruction and changes. Besides, we do not wish to pull everything down. Some previous details will remain. Stage arcade still relates with the Festival in people’s subconciousness. We plan to make an arcade of tree branches connecting above the stage.”
„Esplanāde 2014” will be open from the end of June. To find more information about the programme, click here.