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The need for personal space is the spatial identity of a Latvian.

NRJA’s proposal for Latvia’s participation in the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale – theme, planned research and sketch of the exposition. 
Anticipating the centennial of Latvia NRJA’s proposal for the exposition and research underlying it is dedicated to the genome Viensēta/Homestead. It’s an investigation of the historical and traditional need for a private microcosm (a homestead, a garden, a balcony) opposed to a public, shared use space. 

Homesteads gained their special cultural significance following the agrarian reform during the first years of free Latvia. Celebrating the centennial of Republic of Latvia we also commemorate hundred years of homesteads. Homesteads have survived the soviet years, kolkhozes and communal apartments without being specifically protected or stimulated. The current situation is not an intermediate step towards the European socialising in the urban space; it is the natural state of our nation that is rooted in history and tradition. It has survived and will continue to thrive because it is the nature of Latvians. 

Due to historical and geographical circumstances Latvians as a Nordic nation have developed a different understanding of interpersonal interactions and private/public space. This unique understanding continues to manifest itself in the contemporary life of Latvia. The most significant cultural events are being held on Thursdays and Wednesdays more and more often than on Fridays. On a Friday evening the main highways are overcrowded, Latvians are fleeing the city. It does not matter if it is one’s own house, homestead or hut, or if it’s a friend’s, or a relative’s, or simply rented. What matters is to get away, to be in nature, to be with one’s self and kin. These places are usually scenic due to the close connection Latvians have with nature – the sea, a river, a pond, old trees. The key contributor to one’s sense of roots is often the homestead of close or distant ancestors. Restored, rebuilt or naturally weathered, but a place where to put one’s roots down. Our freedom is freedom to be in solitude. Our free space is private. Our need for personal space is the spatial identity of a Latvian. 

To understand why Latvians feel most at ease in their own microcosm with few others, a close look must be taken at the historical circumstances that have created such a comprehension. The research and printed materials are devoted to the importance of the homestead in the cultural space of Latvia, it’s history, development, manifestations and prevalence in various everyday domains – like a groomed, green private balcony opposed to the unused common courtyard, or contemporary homesteads and political trends in government decisions. It is an investigation into the evolution of the concept of a homestead in the mind of an urban dweller. 

Through the centuries the lands in the territory of Latvia have been owned by different powers. This has in turn shifted the boundaries of private space, often rendering them intangible, but no less real in the mind of a Latvian. 

The exposition is an interpretation of Sou Fujimoto’s „forest of light”. The light rays have been given materiality, creating a fence from light emanating optic fibre cables around the imaginary private space. Through multimedia tools the exhibition suggests the fragility and intangibility of private space, as well as explores its interaction with public space. While being inside of the light rays, the surrounding space is perceived minimally, drawing the attention to short films about the manifestations of the genome Viensēta/Homestead. In this conceptual private space there is only one display, one seat and room for only one person, allowing the experience of a private, personal space. 

The research and exposition explore the different perceptions of public/private space and the impossibility to use unified tools for spatial organisation without any regard for cultural and historical context. Often these historically formed notions and traditions determine the need for shared use public space and its basic conditions. 

It is impossible to analyse the public space of Latvia without an awareness of the genome Viensēta/Homestead. 

The free space of Latvians is private, one’s own. This free space is one of the resources of Latvia – the privilege to be in solitude with one’s own self and nature. 

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