National Library of Latvia

Riga, Latvia

This book is in the rare books collection of the National Library of Latvia.

Scope: Building Program, Exhibit Development

Directly across the Daugava River from the medieval town center of Riga, Latvia a dramatic new building opened in 2014. The Latvian National Library, designed by the world-renowned Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts, brings ancient forms and modern design together in an architectural metaphor known as the Castle of Light.

Latvian folklore tells of a mythical “Castle of Light” that will rise some day from the depths of a legendary lake, restoring the wisdom of the ages to a people who have endured centuries of war, invasion, and occupation. In other folktales, a “Crystal Mountain” challenges men and women to scale its heights – a task not easily accomplished, but full of rewards for those who are determined enough to reach its peak.

Gunnar Birkerts has incorporated these evocative Latvian symbols into the Library’s dramatic design. From its position near the celebrated Daugava River, the building’s gleaming facade mirrors the distinctive spires of Riga’s Old Town, reflecting Latvia’s rich urban history, while symbolizing the achievements and brilliant future of the new Latvian nation.

Interpretive Solutions involvement with this landmark project started in 1994 under a construction management contract won by Hill International, a US company. Peter Dajevskis served as the international liaison between the Latvian and American architectural design teams during the programming and design phases of the project. He was the team’s day to day contact with the design architect Gunnar Birkerts, FAIA, the director of the National Library, Andris Vilks and the Ministry of Culture. He was responsible for coordinating presentations to UNESCO, the Library of Congress and other non-Latvia based organizations supporting the project.

He also developed an exhibition program for “A History of Latvian Publishing,” from its 15th century roots, through the period of Soviet censorship, to the role of publishing in a contemporary free society. Interpretive Solutions is proud to have played a role in the creation of the new library as a national symbol, repository, and core institution that embodies the cultural, democratic and aspirations of the Latvian people.