Zunda Canal Residences
Riga, Latvia
Co-living residential complex with integrated commercial functions
Zunda Canal Residences is a 7th semester Design Studio project I developed within the Zunda Canal Revitalization Urban Planning project.

It is a co-living dwelling for students from the nearby universities and independently living seniors with three integrated public functions—a sports center, a bookshop and a lecture hall.
The main task of the project was to create a quality living environment in an existing urban environment, taking into account the future challenges and the interactions between public functions of the city and the privacy of the living environment, as well as the specifics of the site / characteristics of the site.
After closely examining various case studies and carrying out a thorough urban analysis, I came to the conclusion that most of the nearby residential complexes are not affordable to middle-income households such as students and seniors. Housing shortages, inflated prices, and increasing levels of loneliness mean that alternative ideas for living more densely and sustainably are desperately needed. Therefore, the main idea was to create a living model that would be affordable for its intended users, encourage a symbiotic relationship between its residents and also with its overall surrounding and make city life more affordable and pleasurable for a wider range of people.
How to create a dwelling affordable for middle-income households with the help of architecture?
In order to avoid the residence becoming unaffordable for their intended users/residents (students and seniors), I created the dwelling as a co-living housing model where multiple people share a single home with shared amenities such as kitchens, living rooms and recreational zones. Such spatial solutions also promote a social bond between residents where they can exchange services like babysitting, education and basic social interactions.  (could potentially decrease levels of loneliness among elders and help students cope with their busy schedules)
How to create a dwelling affordable for middle-income households with the help of architecture?
The building is located between two contrasting components - a high traffic road on one side and a serene residential area and a canal on the other side. In order to ensure a quality living environment, sheltered from traffic pollution and noise, I designed the facade facing the street as a shield with few windows with a large ramp extending along the face of the building that is used to connect the two floors where seniors live (wheelchair friendly woohoo). All of the public functions of the building are positioned towards the street and the adjacent pedestrian bridge in order to separate public and private circulation. I positioned the main three residential blocks facing the canal in a step-like manner to ensure their compatibility with the rest of the residential area, creating inner courtyards and terraces.
How to integrate public/commercial functions in a way that ensures privacy but also allows the residents to contribute?
My goal was to integrate public functions in the building in a way that would seem organic and natural, rather than confining them on one level of the building. I positioned the public functions on almost all levels of the building, integrating them in the life of the residents - a sports centre on the ground floor, closer to the student apartments, a bookshop on the main/first floor where senior residents reside and a lecture hall on the top floor, overlooking the whole site and the canal. To ensure privacy and to avoid non-residents accessing private spaces, the circulation
I used both theoretical and practical research findings in choosing the technical, functional and architectural spatial solutions of the site plan and the building.I created a multi-storey residential building with additional functions based on the previously defined territory development proposal, as well as other case studies and typological studies(?). I proposed a design that is not only physically and spatially responsive towards its surroundings, but also socially, by creating a co-living housing unit that would cater to the needs of the local community.
Creating a quality living environment in an existing urban environment is a challenge in itself. This is due to the struggle between historical heritage, public functions of the city, as well as the privacy of the living environment. This is very much apparent on the banks of the Zunda Canal, where industrial inheritance, intensive educational and business developments, as well as an increasing need for housing can be observed together.

One of the key elements that makes a living environment desirable is the presence of a healthy and happy community. The inhabitants of the Zunda Canal area vary from local fishermen to international students. My main goal was to create an environment that would respect this diverse community and allow it to evolve and grow, as well as creating a desirable environment for potential residents and visitors. Therefore, my proposed designs involve creating both luxury and co-living residences, small scale fisherman docks and private workshops and extensive public promenades. My vision proposes the Canal as the connecting link between these diverse inhabitants.

In order to maintain a human-friendly scale, I designed the residential area at a maximum height of 4 stories (12m), while also positioning the buildings in a way that allows the waterfront to be seen at all times. In order to ensure easy access and to keep the inner housing area as private as possible, I situated the public functions on the boundaries of the site. Student and senior housing is situated next to the main traffic street, which helps create an acoustical and visual shield from the street, while also rendering the buildings easily accessible by foot and public transport.

Affordability was also a key goal of mine. Because the residential area includes residences mainly for small households and families, I wanted to make sure that they are available to a wide spectrum of people. And so in order to avoid the area simply becoming financially unobtainable for the neighboring communities, I propose a considerable number of living units as co-living residences that would include shared amenities reserved for students and the elderly.

The Waterfront
I chose to design the waterfront as a public promenade consisting of various public and commercial functions that would face the canal, such as shops, cafes, and water sport rentals. I also wanted to create a social link between the two neighboring universities, and so the three pedestrian bridges are designed to serve not only as a physical connection to Ķīpsala, but to also connect RISEBA and RTU Universities. The floating cafe and sauna is an example of this link, promoting the exchange of knowledge between the students of the two universities.

The Unfinished Bridge
I repurposed the unfinished bridge—which currently lingers above the main traffic road—as a pedestrian and cycling path, which now also serves as an observation deck overlooking the area. The descent from the bridge is designed to be intertwined with various commercial functions, and ultimately leads pedestrians and cyclists towards the waterfront. In addition, the residential area and waterfront are finally accessible from Pārdaugava as well. The Factory
I propose to develop the industrial area and its adjacent waterfront to cater to the interests and habits of the local fishermen. In order to maintain its rural vibe, I located the private docks and sheds to be alongside the canal. As for the abandoned industrial territory, I proposed reusing it as a workshop area where students and locals can exchange tools and services.

I was happy to create a proposal that is based on my research which explores issues in contemporary urban development. As a result, the project prioritizes the needs of the surrounding community, and considers factors in urban mobility and environmental sustainability. It was also a valuable opportunity to explore regulatory enactments, as well as to design a proposal that takes in account the planned development of its surrounding territories.