Site visit to Agenskalns, Riga
Site-visit to Riga. The Historical Āgenskalns market has just reopened!
On May 9th and 10th, Lorenzo and Luis Miguel from our IN-HABIT project team visited Riga to meet with the project’s other partners, including the University of Reading and Book on a Tree. The team had the chance to visit the newly reopened Āgenskalns market and the surrounding area in two days of activities and meetings with the local community and project partners.
Tesserae’s role in IN-HABIT is to coordinate the process of engagement of local stakeholders across the 4 partner cities (Córdoba, Riga, Nitra and Lucca) and to support the development of hard and soft solutions through co-creative process. The visit offered the perfect opportunity to understand the local context of the project and to engage in very fruitful exchanges with the local partners and stakeholders.
The first day started with a walk around the market. It felt like a very special moment since the market had just reopened on Friday, and so, this was the first weekday that it was open. The market felt vibrant, full of curious customers rediscovering a historical piece of their neighbourhood as well as a place to do their groceries. The market was surrounded with an aura of novelty and elegance and gathered a wide and diverse spectrum of local visitors throughout the whole day.
The team of Kalnciema Quarter presented us the different spaces and ideas that will fill the market with life. For example, the “audio-showers” that provide a place of intimacy to experiment with sound in the bustle of the market, or the basement, which will serve as a storage room but also contains some historical equipment of the market like a collection of scales and a historical fridge. Even if the market has reopened, there is still lots to do and lots of ideas to try out. The whole team then moved on to explore the neighbourhood of Āgenskalns, guided by some questions from the Urban Reconnaissance platform to prompt different perspectives from which to look at the neighbourhood.
Back in the market, the project partners discussed the latest advancements in the project’s IN-HUBs, local projects supporting community engagement, and reflected on the challenges of implementing Integrated Urban Development solutions through a session facilitated by Tesserae. The University of Reading team then elaborated on the concept of gender landscapes in the context of public servants, representative of NGOs and interested citizens, and provided some very valuable input on the state of the art of gender policies across Europe. The conversation was vibrant, and it helped enormously to have a clearer picture on how to move forward in this regard in the city of Riga.
The day finished with a workshop facilitated by the local partners around the idea of building a community kitchen. This session made clear how central food can be in connecting people and promoting inclusive health and wellbeing. Many ideas were thrown into the table around the type of activities that should take place in this space and the people who should be engaged in giving it shape. Working with such a proactive community was a delight in terms of the depth of the conversation but also because of the passion that moved the participants.
The second day was used by project partners to reflect on communication aspects, with one session facilitated by Book on a Tree, and another, on the use of behavioural games to foster collaboration in between unlikely collaborators, led by University of Reading. The Tesserae team facilitated a final wrap-up session by taking a step back and digging into the origins of the vision that has driven forward such massive transformations in this part of the city, before moving onto the planning for the activities that will take place in the next months.
The visit proved to be an excellent opportunity to reflect and look at things from a different angle. Tesserae would like to thank the local team for their hospitality and congratulate them for the great work that they have been doing in the last months. Even if we were only there for two days, we feel emotionally connected to Āgenskalns market and its people, and wish them the best for the future.
Report by Luis Miguel Benavides