House of Nature creates an ideal environment for researchers and students

The University of Latvia has established a modern academic centre with state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure for students and researchers. As part of this ambitious plan, the university has built the ‘House of Nature’, which provides a new home for the faculties of biology, chemistry, and geography and earth sciences.

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House of Nature, University of Latvia © University of Latvia House of Nature, University of Latvia © University of Latvia

" Establishing a state-of-the-art academic centre, starting with the House of Nature, is at the core of our modernisation strategy. By bringing studies and research together, investing in our facilities and infrastructure, and promoting a multidisciplinary approach, we can continue to support the development of knowledge and skills whilst encouraging innovation and technology transfer. In this way, we can make our University more attractive and also make a positive contribution to the economic development of Latvia. "

Professor Indriķis Muižnieks, Rector of the University of Latvia

The decision to create a new academic centre in the Torņakalns district of Riga is part of an ambitious strategy developed by the University of Latvia, which is committed to providing researchers and students with the best possible conditions for working and learning. 

The House of Nature, which officially opened in 2015, has been designed to meet the highest standards in terms of energy efficiency. Living plants on both the inside and outside of the building contribute to creating an ideal environment for students of natural sciences.

Providing opportunities

Established in 1919, the University of Latvia is one of the largest teaching and research universities in the Baltic region with more than 14 000 students in 13 faculties. It also hosts some 20 research institutes and independent study centres. However, the University, like Latvia as a whole, faces challenges linked to demographic change. 

The population of Latvia has fallen significantly since the 1990s due to a combination of migration and low birth rates, and this has also led to a reduction in the number of young adults. At the same time, young people now have more possibilities to study and work in other countries, especially since Latvia joined the EU in 2004. 

In this context, the University of Latvia has a vital role to play in providing opportunities for young people to access an excellent education in their own country and acquire the knowledge and skills that they need to succeed in a 21st Century economy. It also has an important role to play in supporting research and technological development that will contribute to the economic prosperity of Latvia in the coming years and decades.

Following a thorough review of the university’s buildings and facilities, the management concluded that the best way to provide state-of-the-art facilities for students and researchers would be to build a completely new academic centre in the Torņakalns district of Riga, next to the National Library of Latvia. The new academic centre will bring all the faculties and institutes of the university together on a single campus, with shared facilities and infrastructure. 

By gathering all its faculties and institutes in one place, together with housing and other facilities, the University of Latvia hopes to promote more mingling among students, academic personnel and researchers. It also intends to encourage a more interdisciplinary approach to both academic studies and research activities, leading to greater innovation.

Innovative design

The first building on the new campus is the House of Nature, which was officially opened in August 2015 and brings together the Faculties of Biology, Chemistry, and Geography and Earth Sciences. The building has seven floors, plus a basement, with a total indoor area of 17 000 m2. It contains 30 auditoriums which can be used for teaching groups of up to 300 students, plus 138 fully-equipped laboratories including 65 reserved for research.

The House of Nature has an innovative design developed by Latvian architects (Sestais Stils) that allows for an efficient use of energy. For example, the exterior walls have a double façade which provides shade in the summer and helps to retain heat in the winter. Furthermore, motion sensors and LED lights have been fitted throughout the building in order to minimise electricity consumption.

Respect for the natural environment is also an important part of the overall concept. The living plants are used on the outside of the building to provide shade, and there is also a roof garden with greenhouses. Many more living plants can be found inside the House, alongside beautiful paintings by Cristina Luisa Avotina, a contemporary Latvian artist who is famous for including flora and fauna in her compositions.

Following the opening of the House of Nature, work has started on the construction of another two buildings: the House of Science and the House of Letters, which between them will host seven academic faculties alongside numerous institutes. The Torņakalns campus is due to be further developed with the addition of modern housing for students and academic personnel, alongside a technology centre, conference centre and sports centre. All of the buildings will be accessible for people with disabilities and special needs.

The completion of the new campus should enable the University of Latvia to satisfy the evolving expectations of students and researchers, and further enhance its reputation as a vibrant hub of learning and innovation.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “University of Latvia Research and Study Centre “Tornakalns’” is EUR 36 050 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 29 000 000 through the ‘Infrastructure and Services’ Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Infrastructure for Strengthening Human Capital”.

 

Draft date

11/01/2019