Exploring the Daugava River in Latvia

February 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Currently in Latvia the average annual income is € 3214.00 per inhabitant. The situation is challenging and the future uncertain. Creating viable futures will require strong vision and constructive interventions through time that also function on a larger scale.

The Daugava River and its environment are central to this task. This river (total length of 1,020 km) which originates in Russia has been the main trade route between Latvia and the East since time immemorial. It is also known as “the river of fate.”  The task of the design studio will be to create a new destiny that will offer a new perspective, where the landscape will serve as an economic engine.

2nd year studio project with teacher Joyce van den Berg   (www.studio-berg.net)

Welcome to the Daugava by Esther Brun

Welcome to the Daugava-Kolchoz experience.

This trail has been created to provide you with a unique experience of Latvia’s culture and history placed in a idyllic landscape setting. The trail leads along the Daugava river that was once an important waterway for transport. Today the river has a role of different importance; it generates power. Three huge dames were created during the communistic domination of Russia creating large lakes at each dame.

The total route stretches out over approximately 295 km but it is also segregated in four separate routes differing in length. You can start your hike at any given point along the north side of the Daugava as this side is best accessible by train departing from Riga. Starting points are: Ogre, Kegums, Auziskraukle , Koknese and Jekapils.

The trail leads you during the day across rural Latvia, along fields and panoramic views over the Daugava river. The nights you spend in former Kolchozen; Russian industrial farms from the soviet era. These huge landmarks that stand as silent witnesses in Latvia’s landscape have been retrofitted for diverse functions. Once they were remnants of a negative inheritance; today they provide employment and education to the local people. At these Kolchozen you get a unique opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about Latvia and its history first hand. For each Kolchoz a different function has been selected, suitable for the local population and interesting to you as a visitor. You get the opportunity to see craftsmen at work, visit a market with traditional foods and goods or have a fresh brew pint at the new organic brewery.

The trail is recognizable by its custom-made path of concrete slabs with Lielvarde pattern relief and handcrafted poles that make sure the route is also identifiable in wintertime. Along the trail birch trees have been planted to create a ribbon thru the landscape. In total four different types of birch trees have been selected each with a specific purpose and meaning. The basis of the ribbon is composed of Betula pubescens. Sometimes the trail needs a focus point- this is provided by the use of the Betula papyrifea which can reach between the 20 and 25 meters in height. Leading up to the Kolchozen the ribbon tightens into a lane. Around the kolkhoz, Betula Ermanii “blush” will be planted to connect these hubs of activity and social interaction to the trail. In the country side Betula Nigra is added around private estates to emphasize the small residencies but also to provide for privacy.

You can choose to commence this trip at any time during the year, as it is also accessible during the winter and perfect for cross-country skiing.

Make sure to collect all your marks along the trail this will enable you to pick up a special patch for your backpack at your finish point. Marks can be collected by tracing over the relief into your trail guide.

REPEAT by Esther van der Tuin


Latvia is an amazing country with a long history and a rich culture. But it has also a history full of war and domination. The last occupation by the USSR, changed the river Daugava and the surrounded landscape visibly. The marks the USSR left in the landscape still have their influence:

– Cultural sites, recreation and nature have been destroyed because of the biggest hydraulic power plant of the EU, which made the water level of the Daugava rise with 40 meters.

– A lot of raw materials have been extracted and land drained because of the higher water level of the Daugava.

– The area is not profitable enough as agricultural land and is practically abandoned.

By transforming the agricultural land back into peat land, culture and traditions will be gently restored step by step.  The marks will become chances to transform this area into a valuable productive landscape. When the peat district is ready for production, the wounds of the USSR will be vanished and the reclamation will bring up at least 350 mln. LvL (430 mln. euro), that would be 5 mln. LvL a year till the peat has reached its final stage.

The location of the peat districts is based on the position of former peat lands.  The shape is extracted from the measurement that the USSR used for production land.

The slow development of peat creates a valuable divers nature and recreational landscape that will return the Latvian identity to this one so- loved area by the Latvians.

Grow in Time by Evelien de Mey


The ARCHIPEL of the Baltic States by Frank Zuilekom


Biking Plavinu by Mathé van Kranenburg

The Daugava river forms the main corridor in Latvia. Along the Daugava the country is the most densely populated, the most important infrastructural connections follow the river. Because of the river a lot of productional farmlands and woodlands are developed along the banks. The River itself turned into the most important electricity source for the country.

In the cities and villages along the Daugava a lot of the culture heritage of the country is kept. There are a lot of possibilities for tourism in the area. However, the development of tourism is hold back by the current lack of adequate infrastructure and tourism marketing: lacking is operationally up-to-date information on accommodation, tourist sites, active recreation possibilities and services.

The project Biking Plavinu is a touristic biking route which leads through the natural landscape of the Daugava river and villages with typical Latvian cultural elements. The route is part of a large scale biking-route system along the Daugava river. By connection the culture and landscape of the area around Plavinu reservoir tourists are being able to experience the true historical and actual Latvia.

The start point of the route is Aizkraukle, which is acces­sible by train, highway and the connection bike routes along the Daugava. From this town the route leads you in five hours over the biggest dam in the Daugava, over the highest point of the region, through the historical village of Sece. After this through the lowlands of Secene to the Staburags rock memorial, along the Daugava to ‘Liktendarz’ memorial island and in-between point Koknese (3 hour trip), which also has possibilities to stay the night and is also accessible by train or highway.

In Koknese there are several churches but main attractor is the Castle ruins and the park. The route continues through typical Latvian farmlands and the Kaplava orthodox church back to Aizkraukle in which you can find a lot of museums, churches and cultural elements.


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