Kemeri National Park covers 380 km² in western Latvia. It is the third-largest national park in one of Europe’s greenest countries, situated one hour by train from Latvia’s capital city of Riga. The park is home to a wide range of wildlife including black stork, and moose, deer, elk, foxes, wolves, wild cattle and horses. It was established in 1997 to protect an important region of Latvia’s forests, lakes, natural mineral springs and marshlands.
Nearly 25% of the park consists of rich wetlands, the largest collection known as the Great Kemeri Bog - a popular destination where visitors can walk along a network of boardwalks that spans several kilometers. Here, one can discover up close the wetlands and its special collection of flora and fauna, including mosses and stunted trees.
The Great Kemeri Bog Visitor Center architecture competition invited participants to submit designs for an iconic entryway to the park. The competition is run in partnership with the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency, the organization charged with managing and protecting the park, and which has expressed interest in constructing the winning proposal.
This is the second architecture competition in a series organised by Bee Breeders in conjunction with the conservation agency. Earlier this year, the Kemeri Park Observation Tower Competition delivered design proposals for a buildable observation structure situated along the boardwalk system that allows visitors new ways to view and experience the Great Kemeri Bog.
In the current competition participants were tasked with designing a visitor center on a site located at the entry to the Great Kemeri Bog boardwalk. The site is currently used as a car park and gathering point for boardwalk visitors.
The proposed design program consists of: an information centre with a cafe, terrace, and external ticket window; a camping site with access to shower and toilet facilities; a children’s playground; and a car park with the capacity for 100 vehicles. It was requested that structural elements be made from durable materials. There were no dimensional requirements or budget.
As the winning projects will be considered for construction, designs were judged for their integration within the park and sensitivity to the environment, the use of sustainable materials, and constructability. A range of ideas were submitted at various scales. The jury in particular focused on designs that have the potential to become a new landmark for the park and for Latvia.
The high quality of the winning projects as well as the honorable mentions reflects the outstanding level of work submitted. Bee Breeders would like to thank all entrants for their participation.
Jury feedback summary
This project is perhaps the most effective at establishing a gateway to the Great Kemeri Bog. The rectangular-bar form set perpendicular to the entry drive firmly separates the vehicular entry from the camping grounds and pedestrian network of pathways, and filters visitors through a single access point that also becomes the starting point for the bog’s network of wooden boardwalks. The sectional drawing expresses the project’s constructability, and the interior images reflect its simple use of natural materials. The varied layout of its vertical facade module gives the otherwise harsh block form a more natural aesthetic that is clearly related to the trees of the surrounding forest.