COMING OF AGE IN THE CITY. What Riga looks like to GENERATION Z kids. Pt.4!

Teenagers are arguably having one of the most peculiar times in our lives now. As adults, we can cave in at home and try working, studying, and even partying remotely, however for those coming of age this is a time of unwelcome social vacuum and anxiety. We return with a forth episode of our interviews with two teenagers in Riga explaining word by word both their feelings about our capital as well as their lives.

MIKO, 17

My family has had quite a unique situation to live in the same flat in the Quiet Centre for about a hundred years. That explains why I study relatively nearby, at Riga State Gymnasium No. 1.
In my life, this year has been significantly different due to the covid situation, and I no longer go to art school. Otherwise, it would fill the other half of my school days with extra curricular lessons, such as drawing, painting, sculpting. The rest of my free time remains more variable - I help my mum at her sustainable fashion design firm or ride a bike to the corners of Riga, where I have never been and document the things I see.
My biggest surprise lately was riding all the way down the river Daugava along Ķengarags promenade. At first, I had no idea how long it has been built out, reaching private houses and "micro-gardens". At second, we were passing by a meadow full of bunkers that looked more like overground tunnels (a former USSR air force base - CR). I would have never guessed there was so great a contrast - something like this right next to a densely overbuilt neighbourhood.
Grīziņkalns district has also always seemed very charming and full with creativity; Čiekurkalns and Lastādija have a certain feel to them as well - reminds me of what the centre was like in my early childhood. I have a friend with whom I like going on expeditions to the upcoming Skanste district or their Hanza quarters. New streets to no houses, abandoned rail tracks, even a tiled square in the middle of nowhere, or a concrete "sausage" that looks like a pool curb - it can get quite bizarre. I like how the archipelago of this place changes constantly, from great piles of construction materials, dug-out holes in the ground, and emptiness and wilderness to a housing and banking district.

The concrete "Sussage" curb at Hanza area (CAPITAL R; 2020).

I am not a café-society type and prefer making friends with people out of my age-group. I rather like spending my time by going to exhibitions and culture spaces. My favourites are "Arsenāls" exhibition hall and the "427" gallery run by the curator Kaspars Groševs. I often manage to visit "kim?", it's placed in the creative quarter "Sporta2" that has been growing lately, but I don't really know what else to do there.
I noticed that my last four visited exhibitions were somehow related to trash art in very trashed places: it was the Survival Kit art forum, Riga Biennial of Contemporary arts (RIBOCA), "Sintēze" younger artist exhibition at Boļševička factory, and the new suburban culture space "Točka" (all related to old, empty industrial spaces - CR).

To be honest, I liked those places before there was any art around, especially Andrejsala (the main domain of RIBOCA). I spent a lot of time there, when I was little, my mother's studio is there too. Maybe the place used to be even better than now, some dozen years ago, but I believe that RIBOCA has again resurrected the Andrejsala I knew at some point. At least, people have shown a healthy interest in it; although, I am not sure if I'd like the idea of people being interested too much as well.
Now, all this kind of trash art is up to my neck. I also think there's too much of unnecessary photos since everybody has some device with camera in their pockets. It makes me feel like nowadays we don't even enjoy the moment while it lasts, without capturing it. The same goes with posts of short videos from exhibitions or concerts - not sure if the person really understands the meaning of what one sees. Some experiences are so volatile it's pointless to try capturing them.
It's quite difficult for me to characterize Riga. It seems quite illusionary with very contrastful districts, some of them even next to each other. I believe the description of a place greatly depends on one's interests, for example, if you enjoy sports a lot, you will mostly notice sports fields above all else.
One thing that really makes Riga different in my eyes is its empty plots and areas - a lot of free space to express oneself. The not so sharp-witted approach is to open parking lots there, more creative people start open air cafes. I have not seen so many empty spots anywhere else. At first, I thought it's a negative thing, now I have come to conclusion that it's very good - it gives us an opportunity to grow, namely in the shrinking centre - it's rarely seen in other metropolises.
I wonder if Riga is ready to be unique at something and unveil itself to the world? Maybe we should first begin by defining what best describes the qualities in Latvia, something everybody could aim for. Maybe it’s food - we very much appreciate markets in Riga and buying directly from farmers, it's also an old industry here. Our family has a small biological farm in the countryside, as much as I know, Latvia has the biggest proportion of biological farms in Europe.


Since I live in the historic centre in a conservative flat with old interior, I have learned to be responsible for considering the past when building the new. When rearranging my room, I always think of that. We should also be more strict and constructive in preserving the past image in Riga.
My ambition is to become an architect, and I find it important to think of what will happen to things we create (or even purchase) now in a hundred years? I have held a hundred-year-old pencil-case, brush, pen, and all of them feel very different than things today. It makes me want to create the surrounding environment as qualitative and thought-out as that.

I don't mind staying in Latvia for my Bachelor's and only go abroad during Erasmus (except if there was a chance to study at Bauhaus University in Weimar). For that, I have deliberately tried to develop both the STEM skills at high school and humanitarian studies at art classes. I believe it's important to start with the rational element first, because it's harder to lose the artistic one. You can always visit exhibitions, photograph, or listen to music; for those are like necessities to me, but it takes more work and greater effort to learn subjects like maths.


I live in Skanste neighbourhood, next to Arēna Rīga. It's a bit away from the city centre, where I go the Riga State Gymnasium No. 2. At first, I wanted to study something related to arts; like every second girl, my dream was to learn fashion design. However, I also listened to the people around me and decided a more interdisciplinary education would be more valuable now.
I have just started 11th grade in the school's IB (International Baccalaureate) programme. "It aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect," it is described. I like the concept as the subjects seem more practical and I have a chance to partially study in English. It made me think about finding my university abroad in Europe; something related to interior design or architecture.
Compared to my friends, who study the national programme, my school day is a bit longer -  from 8AM to about 4 or 5PM. On most days after school, I’m off to gym class, where I attend different cardio, strength or body and mind group exercises almost every day. I have practiced volleyball, high-diving, and wakeboarding before, but because of my school schedule I like going to the gym now as I can fully plan my time and find this convenient.

There are some days when I hang out with my friends after school, we usually get some coffee and do our homework together. My favourite places recently have been “Moltto Coffee” or “MiiT Coffee". If we go out to eat, we usually visit “Ezītis Miglā” on Tērbatas street, because a friend of mine works there, or we get something from “Lage”; lately, also because of the global situation, we mostly eat at home or just go over to each other's places. Sometimes, when there are events, I go to “Tallinas Kvartāls” as well. 

I like living in Skanste, because it is very modern and new. Most of the houses here are recently built, and there are many upcoming projects being fulfilled. I would also definitely recommend going to Andrejsala. Just bring some friends and snacks and go to the pier to watch the sunset or just have a picnic at any other time of the day over there if the weather is nice. If you are into art, I would also recommend visiting some galleries in Riga like kim?, Arsenāls, Rīgas Mākslas telpa, LOOK!, or Zuzeum; it's also something I do time to time with my friends or family.
At Andrejsala (Marta's private archive; 2019).
Despite living in the contemporary part of Riga, I am also attracted to older places such as the area around Miera street and the Quiet centre. I very much enjoy the atmosphere, architecture (mainly the beautiful Art Nouveau). There is still a chocolate factory on Miera street and small cafeterias. Another traditional place I’m always telling everyone about (though I don’t visit it often myself) is Meža street in the Āgenskalns neighbourhood. It is a small lane with a bright colourful church at the end of it, and there are several cafes around, so you can go for a meal or coffee, sit outside, and enjoy the nice view and the cosy feeling there.

I would say that Riga is a small city where you might know about every third person your age that you see. It’s definitely not a bad thing. However, when it's summer and the weather is hot, I rather stay outside the city as it feels there's lack of fresh air in Riga. During the pandemic, the city was very quiet and empty, it was kind of depressing probably like almost everywhere around the world. I remember walking my dog and barely seeing anyone out, but I feel like there wasn’t a specific feeling about the pandemic in Riga.