Opening up empty buildings for cultural and social initiatives.
Free Riga’s approach to urban transformation is to open up empty buildings for cultural and social initiatives. In this project they wanted to find a way to fill the empty buildings in Sarkanduagava with initiatives which activate locally and also improve the local quality of life. Their methodology allows people with different skillsets and backgrounds to pursue common interests by grouping together in teams to develop and implement their cultural initiatives. This includes: a pop-up office in an unused shop, publishing a newspaper, a survey of local citizens about their cultural interests,meetings, online communication channel, training course for participants engaging in creating cultural activities and venues.
The main challenge for Sarkandauga is stigmatization. The surveys indicate that the inhabitants of Riga in general do not favor Sarkandaugava as a place to live, while, people living there do not feel the same way and therefore suffer from such stigmatisation. The post-industrial and working-class image is powerful. The Riga Psychiatry and Narcology Center, located in the heart of the area, has created more stigmas around the area than anything else.
There is also a lack of cultural facilities and spaces, which might bring different social groups together.Locals cite the ongoing deterioration of historical buildings and urban infrastructure as a challenge. There is distrust of the authorities due to processes of participation that have promised change but come up short.
Words from coordinators: "For better results with this method there should be more people in the core team, more partners directly engaged, and better support attracted to provide back-up and to increase the impact. With increased support and knowledge there was the potential for more than three inhabitant initiatives to be supported."