The following transformational project is a collaboration between SODO-SOPA, KOSY and FOLD- The Kurgi Experience Centre. The site, located in Latvia’s North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve, is a large nature conservation area at the Estonian border that accounts for nearly 6% of Latvia’s total land area. The site is home to the Latvian Ardennes, a local species of horse that is perilously close to extinction and treasured by the local community as an integral part of its cultural heritage.
The landowners operate one of few remaining breeding programs for the Latvian Ardennes, and home to one of the last four living studs. The vision for the site is to integrate the experience centre with a suite of complementary eco-tourism attractions in the region whilst meeting the owner’s primary focus of horse breeding. The team envisions the building to be a catalyst for the activation of the wider context and more importantly, a device to educate, raise awareness and showcase the Latvian Ardennes.
The Kurgi Experience Centre has been designed to allow visitors to be closer to nature rather than distancing from it. This is achieved by allowing the visitor to experience the context from an intimate courtyard ground experience to a 360 roof path that will promise spectacular views of the larger context. As a result, the design proposes a volumetric ring with a centralised courtyard that acts as an open horse.
This allows visitors to not only encounter the Ardennes upon approach but to view and experience the North Latvia Biosphere Reserve in a completely unrestricted and integrated way. Upon entering the farm, visitors are welcomed with a looped path that ties together the various attractions that Kurgi farm has to offer; such as the Kurgi horse fields, observation tower, local biodiversity, social learning and gathering areas.
The building is proposed to be one of many attractions that the visitor encounters along with a truly holistic experience. With the looped structure and accompanying path, the farm can greet eco-tourists who wish to spend the day. The scheme proposes a future addition of lodging to allow for the farm to cater to guests who want to extend their visit and stay overnight in lodging treehouses, providing another vantage point of Kurgi farm.
The Kurgi Experience Centre creates an essential landmark on the looped path and the building elevates at both ends to allow the visitor to either walk atop or pass underneath. In the centre of the building, visitors are greeted with a centralised courtyard and horse field. This location will not only serve as an ideal central meeting point; the project envisions this space transforming into an arena with future capacity to host programmable events.
The experience centre has been divided into four quadrants; the lobbies, the stepped experience platforms with views of the landscape, the main observation deck and an interiorised exhibition hall. The team fully believes in a sustainable approach to the build and composition of this building; aiming for an ambitious goal of a net-zero carbon in both construction and operation of the building. While the main structure is steel for longevity and structural integrity, the design proposes a thatched roofscape, an techniques date back to the 13th century.
The thatched roofscape consists of local, easily sourced dry vegetation such as straw, water reed and branches which, when properly cut and installed, can provide roofing that is both waterproof and affordable. In addition to utilising local materials, the team values the inclusion of local craftsmanship where the project can demonstrate that a contemporary piece of architecture can both be novel and traditional at the same time. Source by SODO-SOPA, KOSY and FOLD.