Open AD, KROKS Architects and the new residential complex of Zane Legzdina present the combination of local history, functionality and understanding of the human need to feel connected to nature
“I remember that Riga used to be a really ‘green’ city. HOFT’s main contribution to the overall appearance of the capital are the trees that rise vertically above the city, restoring what has been lost over time. It’s something really unheard of in this field,” says Zane Tetere-Sulca of Open AD.
“When you enter the courtyard, you are captivated by an absolutely meditative and sacred feeling which contrasts with the daily bustle. Nevertheless, the modern glass structure above the historic building perfectly highlights the contrasts of the centuries, without which the modern city cannot exist,” continues the architect.
The Flying Tree House, developed for R.Evolution City by Open AD, KROKS Architects and landscape architect Zane Legzdina, is a residential apartment complex, consisting of 2 main building volumes – a renovated 5-storey historic building that dates back to 1881 and a brand new 7-storey building – on both facades bonsai trees are embedded, giving the illusion of flying or levitating trees.
The result of this collaboration is a unique experience of the presence of nature in the middle of a commercial and always bustling city.
The House of the Flying Trees recently received a 2022 International Architecture Prize from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The residential complex comprises 42 apartments with their area varying from 76 m². up to 232 m² with the possibility of combining and reconfiguring them.
Each apartment has a free-standing and spacious balcony with a width of at least 1.80 m and the height of the interior ceiling – 2.9 m.
Under both buildings is a 2-level underground car park which is connected to both buildings.
Floor-to-ceiling windows allow residents to gaze at beautiful and picturesque views of the street-side Art Nouveau gems and levitating trees in the inner courtyard.
The 3 main conceptual pillars of the project, in addition to the highest quality architecture and design, are to preserve as much as possible the historic values of the building by renovating them, bringing the natural presence and giving the experience of contemporary paintings. .
Opening the doors of a historic building with a completely classic 19th century facade, one enters the inner courtyard where there is a sample of modern architecture, but so unusual that it gives the impression of opening a door to a marvelous hidden space. world, as in “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll.
The facade has always been considered the face of the building, but this is a completely new conceptual project where the main jewel is hidden from view of passers-by, so the tradition of being curious and looking at what there is inside has been revived here too.
The main challenge to be overcome during the project was the reconstruction of the historic building so that none of the rich heritages of the past would be lost or damaged in any way, moreover, all reconstruction processes had to be carried out in accordance with the strict regulations of the National Administration of Cultural Heritage. side.
Nevertheless, because throughout the reconstruction, the main statement is a responsible and thoughtful approach and thanks to fruitful cooperation with all team members involved, in terms of planning and execution, every rule is respected. Another challenge is the very dense circumstances in which the construction process had to be managed and executed.
It takes very meticulous, forward-looking and strategic planning to foresee the main difficulties from a construction point of view and take them into account in the circumstances of a densely populated area.
Due to the fact that flying trees are a pioneering concept in the region, extensive and time-consuming research had to be conducted in order to reach the best examples and positive practices internationally that can be adapted to the case.
It is important not only to ensure that the trees are livable in northern weather conditions, but also to create a sophisticated engineering system for tree maintenance, watering, drainage, etc.
All HOFT bonsai trees are conifers such as mountain pine, black dwarf pine and cedar which are specially selected for Riga’s weather conditions, and have already passed acclimatization and have little growth potential.
The design solution, which allowed the integration of bonsai into the architecture of the building, was applied for the first time in the Baltic countries.
Trees literally hanging in the air on the facade, terraces and in the courtyard of the house create a unique atmosphere and a sense of a different course of time.
Located in the very heart of the quiet center of Riga, Strēlnieku Street 5, the choice of location for HOFT is close to perfect.
The area around Strēlnieku and Alberta Street is Riga’s most important, reputable, safe and desirable area.
HOFT has become a living example of 21st century architecture, surrounded by UNESCO-listed architectural heritage sites. Living here is like living in an open-air architectural museum.
Project: HOFT – House of Flying Trees
Architects: Open AD
Design team: Zane Tetere-Sulce, Kristaps Sulcs, Dins Vecans and Undine Linde
Collaborating architects: KROKS architects
Landscape architects: Zane Legzdina
General contractor: Velve SIA
Client: R.Evolution City
Photographers: Alvis Rozenbergs, Jurijs Korjakins and Klavs Loris