RĪGAS METRS - Pt. 3. The winners of the award in 2018!

RĪGAS METRS, the first independent urban award in the city, has been cosy, has been arranged in an exclusive venue, has been online live and offline live along with being turned into an indie forum. What's next? Coming to CAPITAL R as one of the only Latvian contemporary means of communication to the outer world in English seemed more than essential. Speaking out loud to the world about the heroes who, without real benefits, change the city for a better place - what larger venue could there be rather than Internet?

We believe that, before it's time to shut down or transform RĪGAS METRS into something else, it is our duty to tell the whole story of urban activism in Rīga - so the world listens! This is the third and last bit of a 3-part article about the first and last independent urban award in Latvia. Do you want to know, who were the best initiatives in 2018? You can only find out by reading this!

capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2017, 2018, 2019


The jury was intentionally and substantially changed, giving a chance to several previous winners to participate. There were total of four votes this year belonging to urbanist, activist and architect Oto Ozols, activist and the director of Žanis Lipke Jewish saviour memorial museum Lolita Tomsone, the founder of RĪGAS METRS Mārtiņš Eņģelis, while the fourth verdict came from the people. It means that, apart from previous years, there were seven nominees taken from the community voting, too, and added to general pool instead of taking only one winner.

This year the jury could not decide between who or what would receive the Anti-award, therefore this is the first time, also real bad news, when there will be two "winners" of such title. The total list of official laureates of the third RĪGAS METRS 2018 urban independent award are:
  • Lifetime achievement award - Voldemārs Eihenbaums. 
 capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019, voldemārs eihenbaums
Voldemārs (Vladimirs) Eihenbaums is the director of "Wooden Riga (Koka Rīga)" renovation and culture centre, as well as a historic researcher. One can meet Mr. Eihenbaums on any corner of Riga, and he will always show you that corner in a different light - he will know, where there were gorodovoi cops standing during the Tsar era, which family owned some wonderful gardens, and why some undistinguished wooden tavern houses ought to be cherished and protected.

Voldemārs Eihenbaums is like a watchman of his muse Rīga, and is definitely worth to acquaint; if not possible in person, one can always meet his work by visiting the national "Lost Latvia (Zudusī Latvia)" historic imagery portal, where Mr. Eihenbaums has covered almost every aspect of Riga, and elsewhere, more than anybody else.
2018 was a black year to historic architecture in Pārdaugava or the Westside Riga. First it was one of the most significant arcades of industrial architecture heritage, the textile factory "Aurora" being torn down in haste before anyone notices, then in the end of November another neo-classical pre-WWI example "accidentally" caught fire and left only walls on Kalnciema street 2b. Both buildings were abandoned, although the latter also had a history of its inhabitants being ejected on street with force and no dignity.

Also both estates were owned by two Estonian developers that also have ignored suggestions and recomendations by National Heritage Protection Inspection to preserve historical parts. Why? Because, although the houses are not protected by law, they are included into a protected area managed by the municipality, therefore... In both cases the buildings suffered the most in 2018 and, although the demolition was stopped by Riga city construction board, in both cases it was somewhat let go. The historical Kalnciema 2b still stands. For how long? Let me guess...
  • Anti-award 2 - RĪGAS SATIKSME and its ex-director Leons Bemhens.
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,  antibalva
Despite poor governing and administration related to ridiculous spendings, fake workers, overboosted wages, vague tenders, obscure innovations, ridiculous announcements and worst infographics on board, Riga Public transportation administration broke the news right before Christmas of 2018, when almost all of its board got apprehended by police and the national anti-corruption unit.

Of course, the whole performance was stared by its now ex-director Leons Bemhens. For many this became the last drop of common sense to realize how many millions of euros have been fuelled trough this administration into bribes and illegal political party support system, while the administration itself, after a decade of "house keeping", is now on the brink of bankruptcy for the first time in history.
  • Offshore award - Elīna Kursīte, Rūta Šmite "The last Mohicans of Latgale".
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
Latvia has dozens and dozens of boarderline villages and hamlets with only a few people left. Anthropologist and photographer Elīna Kursīte collaborated with a writer Elīna Kolāte in 2016 to publish a book about 66 dying places with 10 or less inhabitants, immortalizing their life, stories, faces and surroundings. In 2018 another book followed the instant classic called "The last Mohicans of Latgale" in collaboration with folklorist Rūta Šmite. The difference this time was of girls going both physically and mentally deep inside the far most Eastern corner of Latvia, called Latgale, to really reach out for people everybody has forgotten, yet who have their own extraordinary appearances.

The stories and photography on 50 villages might be one of the most timeless books created in this century in Latvia, tied in melancholy, sentimentality and sadness always present within the beauty of forgetfulness. The most important fact to a global audience, this book finally has texts also in English for the world to truly understand both context and details.
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 (in alphabetical order) - book "Vilis Rīdzenieks".
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
 This is the very first retrospective collection on a photographer living and working in the first part of XX century.  And not just another photographer. A master, who shot the proclamation of Latvia, destroyed lands in the country and ruins of Rīga after WWI, the only photo on the burning St. Peters church after bombardment of Riga during WWII. A street photographer, who captured life, people and visitors of the capital between wars. If there is a collection of images telling a genuine story on Riga like Eugène Atget told on Paris a century+ ago, then Vilis Rīdzenieks has been the only one ever since.
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 - Latvian translation to Jan Gehl's book "Cities for people".
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
The famous urbanist and arhitect Jan Gehl visited Rīga for a first time in some 20 years and provided a lecture along with binting events, thus receiving a RĪGAS METRS nomination in 2017. It means the event did not receive the award, but it turned out just to be the beginning of something bigger - in 2018 his world famous book "Cities for People" was finally translated and issued in Latvian, therefore proving the thirst of locals for a well governed and urbanized city as well as adding Riga to the family of aware cities today.
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 - RIBOCA 1 Contemporary Arts Biennial.  
Being a controversial figure since its announcement earlier last year and even before (mostly among players of the local art scene), RIBOCA grew into an entity so necessary to Riga and Latvia in general. Yes, also the RĪGAS METRS team were at first affected by rumours and doubts of this unknown Russian-origin funding and fear of the local art institutions being taken over, marginalized, or worse. But, of course, everything cleared out, and RIBOCA showed total interest in collaborating, supporting local creative scene, branding the city with public installations and art objects, and, eventually, providing Riga with a well visited event other Baltic nations are jealous about.
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 - Riga Neighbourhood Alliance.
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
 Already a few years ago this non-governmental organisation laid its roots into several neighbourhoods of Northern Riga. They were and still are active suburbs, demanding and providing development and respect from the city council, and maintaining awareness of such neighbourhoods existing and owning cultural, social and historical value.
In 2018, the Alliance was created that now unites 12 neighbourhoods out of 58 total, supports their rights, and give opportunities to participate, create and develop to 200 000-strong residents the Alliance represents. One of the main reasons to be founded - when the council does not listen and act regarding to one little neighbourhood, they will eventually be ordered to listen to 200 000 potential voices.
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 - Tallinas 10 creative quarters.
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
"Free Riga" independent urban rejuvenation project moved on last year again to open and popularize a large post-mechanic district into a potential, yet very active creative quarters already. Though one part of it looking still a bit forgotten, the other is well maintained and inhabited with galleries, bars, culture and even business spaces, and will flourish during 2019. Tallinas 10 is an answer to many post-industrial places in other Western cities, again proving of a strong suburban and subcultural power to do things we like, not what is trendy.
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 - Veganfestival. 
Riga faced a wave of wannabe street food fests in 2018, but, let's be honest - a burger and a kebab/buritto is barely street food, both traditional and contemporary. Veganfestival, on the contrary, offered wide variety of meatless and cruelty free up-to-date meals (as well as lectures and workshops) that, despite the overall shape, didn't even take place "on the street". The event was located in a perfectly suited place, Riga Botanical Garden, and gathered more than 7000 people in total - the largest number of any Riga street food fest ever, while it was only a second Veganfestival!
  • RĪGAS METRS 2018 - Zane Volkinšteine, Baiba Grīnberga - book “Higher than ground”.
capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
Quietly and unpretentiously this sweet children's book took people's hearts with lovely stories about towers, steeples and high buildings of Riga that both entertain and educate. Accompanied with original drawings by Agnese Aljēna, this book was one of the rare, yet necessary pushes to the younger generation to learn about the city and also think about its values or, the opposite, challenges. For some future urbanists and architects this might be a perfect first guide to to start.
  • Community award - RIBOCA 1 Contemporary Arts Biennial.
 capital r, riga, rīgas metrs, urban award, neatkarīgā pilsētvides balva, neatkarīgā balva, 2019,
Reaching the first year high, people's choice in 2018, despite a very tough competition, turned out to be one of the most discussed topics of the year. Reaching 167 votes and overtaking its closest competitors by less than a dozen, RIBOCA took a large chunk of again a record number of total 477 votes (and only in one week rather than two!). This year women opinion was even higher than before, reaching stunning 76 %. For the third consecutive year the most active group also turned out to be aged around 21 - mid-40's.


In three years RĪGAS METRS achieved something more important that self-esteem or extra motivation. Each event and the online/offline microcosm of the award served its undercover purpose - it created more connected groups of activists, citizens, and simply people who want changes for good. And, hopefully, it motivated activists and initiatives not to lose their bottle and courage to stand for their ideals.

It might be clear there will be no need of such award simply because of what took place in the last half-year. Things got really fucked up with the city and its council thus proving - activists and initiatives were totally right of something not being right at all. But now, despite all the good independent things done for resident's sake, the situation with Rīga when speaking about a liveable city is critical. To be frank, no civic activism at this point can help any more to sort out the high level corruption, wealth and power scheming, the bankruptcy of city-owned public transportation and infrastructure administration.

After the community voted for people's choice an extra question was asked to be answered - does the RĪGAS METRS initiative must continue? 64 % of total votes went - definitely must! Only 17 % were able to suggest that it should continue, only in a different shape. We hope there will be a sign towards this independent award could lean to. A sign indicating more purposeful means to promote and emphasize activism, individuality and fighters for common good. Until then - the future of RĪGAS METRS is enshrouded in mist.


Find: RĪGAS METRS award and its independent activities can be followed on Facebook.
What else: RĪGAS METRS has been, is and will be an independent award distanced from large stake holders and political players. If you want to transfer some donation to its team, that would be nice! You can do it by contacting them on Facebook page and following further info. This though does not guarantee any benefits in evaluating activities or protecting potential anti-award receivers! RĪGAS METRS will not tolerate this.