Topic
The impact of human activities on the Earth's ecosystems has grown to such a scale that it can be considered a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene or the Age of Man. When hardly any place on our planet is left untouched, we especially value the remaining natural areas and strive for fresh air, clean water, luscious greenery and organically produced food. For the frustrated urbanite, a rural town seems to be the refuge, promising unspoiled nature and an idyllic lifestyle, as well as the basic amenities of a city.

The Summer School is going to take place in Cesis – a town located within the Gauja National Park, which is the largest protected natural area in Latvia. Its high biological diversity, varied terrain and natural water resources provide for outdoor sports of all seasons and traditional picking of mushrooms, berries and medicinal plants. Being close to nature is an essential part of the town’s identity.

What does a modern day Arcadia entail? Does it accommodate urban agriculture, water management, wildlife reintroduction, ecotourism, well–being of the body and the mind? Can we imagine giving up an urbanised territory to the forces of nature? Is today’s Arcadia economically and socially sustainable?

We are going to explore the picturesque and the utilitarian green areas both within and around Cesis: forests, parks, cemeteries, gardens, maintained greenery and overgrown plots. A site of particular interest is the valley of Pirtsupite, a small tributary of the river Gauja. It stretches through Cesis, being both a divide in the urban fabric and a green connector between neighbourhoods. We are going to read the landscape, decode the obvious and hidden qualities of the site, place it within a larger ecosystem and the collective memory, suggest strategies and design structures for public use.

Location
The town of Cesis lies in Vidzeme Upland near the winding valley of river Gauja. Over 800 years ago it rose as an important trade centre in Livonia, experienced a heavy decline in the 18th century due to wars, fires and plague, and managed to recover and prosper in later centuries. Its favourable position in road and railway network advanced economic development; scenic surroundings and rich historical heritage attracted vacationers.

During the Soviet era Cesis escaped the heavy industrialisation that changed many other towns, instead it set an aim of becoming the cultural capital of Vidzeme region. Today Cesis, as most mid–sized towns in Latvia, is seeing many of its residents move away, and neighbouring towns of Valmiera and Sigulda becoming more competitive with their sports, educational and recreational infrastructure. In response, Cesis puts emphasis on employing its medieval heritage and keeping up an attractive cultural life that brings a lively buzz into the streets.

The Summer School is going to be accommodated in the cosy Rucka manor, located just outside the town's centre and surrounded by a scenic 18th century park.

Workshops
During the course, work is going to be organised in several thematic studios, each employing a different approach to research and design. Some of the units are going to research the physical, socio–economic and political realities of Cesis on an urban scale, while others are going to design, test and build ephemeral installations in the public realm, using methods of architecture and design. Students will be given an opportunity to work hands–on with creating actual events and spatial structures that accommodate public interactions.

Programme
Students will be offered an intensive two–week programme of lectures, discussions and workshops, as well as sightseeing tours and parties. The programme will be conducted by an international team of architects, urbanists and designers, representing both practice and academia.

The Summer School is a possibility for students to learn new methods of research and design in an informal atmosphere, choosing a specific focus area to meet their interests: mapping and collecting data, designing and constructing spatial structures, interviewing and observing local residents, or developing visual representation skills.

The projects completed during the course are a valuable contribution to students’ portfolios. For the city of Cesis it is a chance to collect fresh ideas and discover new territories and directions for future development. Results of the Summer School will be presented to the local public and authorities, and receive wide publicity.

Eligibility
During the Summer School, students work in a multidisciplinary and international environment. Focus of the course is architecture, urbanism and design, but it also welcomes students and young professionals of related disciplines: geography, sociology, arts etc. The Summer School aims for increasing exchange of knowledge and endorsing understanding between different spatial and social disciplines.

Applicants should have completed at least one year of studies by the beginning of the course, be fluent in English and keen to work in groups.

Participation fee
The fee including registration, tuition, accommodation, meals and social programme is € 675. Participants should cover their own travelling expenses and insurance. A limited number of full and partial scholarships are available, provided by State Education Development Agency and the organisers. The amount of financial support depends on the number of applications received; candidates will be evaluated based on their motivation and résumé.

Academic credits
Participants of the Summer School will be awarded a Certificate of Riga Technical University and 3 ECTS points upon completion of the course.

Application
Deadline for submitting applications was May 3, 2015.
The course is now fully booked, and we are not accepting applications anymore.

The Summer School starts on July 25 and ends on August 8, 2015.

For regular updates follow the Summer School's Facebook page.
For answers to your questions write to arcadia@fold.lv

Organisers
Riga Technical University Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning
Online platform for Latvian creative industries FOLD.