Current life expectancy trends show that people are living longer than ever before, and the average lifespan will continue to increase. The issue is whether we are not only living longer, but also better. The need for an improved quality of life challenges designers to create environments where one can feel healthier, happier and more comfortable.

The Summer School is going to take place in Cesis – a town where health and leisure have always been intrinsic to the local lifestyle. Cesis is 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. In early 19th century local doctors contributed to the revival of water procedures in Europe by opening several hydrotherapy establishments. The healing qualities of natural springs have attracted countless visitors ever since and are still an essential part of the town’s identity.

What can rural towns offer for the well–being of their residents and visitors? Is clean air, locally produced food and a stress–free working day a sufficient foundation for a wholesome life in the 21st century? We are going to revisit local natural assets, infrastructure and traditions of wellness, and propose ways how they can be updated according to the needs of a healthier society and possibilities of current technologies.

The town of Cesis lies in Vidzeme Upland near the winding valley of river Gauja. 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 industrialization 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 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 creating attractive cultural events that bring a lively buzz into its streets.

The cosy Rucka manor, located just outside the town's centre, is going to accommodate the Summer School and become one of the cases to study — in the past the building has served as a tuberculosis hospital, but currently it is on its way to transform into a new creative hotspot.

During the course, work is going to be organised in several thematic studios with different methodologies, use of media and expected outcomes. 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.

The Summer School supports an open–ended approach where the process of making architecture is as important as the architecture itself and the events within a space are as important as the space itself. Scale of our actions is going to vary from small everyday events to the complex structure of the whole city. Our interventions aim to serve in the long term as life–size models of infrastructure for its social sustainability.

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 test new approaches in 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 ways for future development. Results of the Summer School will be presented to the local public and authorities, and receive wide publicity online and in printed press. A film crew is going to be present to document lectures, research, design and construction processes, and later produce video footage of the two weeks in Cesis.

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, design, arts etc. The Summer School aims for increasing exchange of knowledge and endorsing understanding between different spatial and social disciplines.

Applicants should have finished 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.

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.

Applications are now closed. The Summer School will start on July 26 and end on August 9, 2014.

For regular updates follow the Summer School's Facebook page.
For questions write to

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