Track 4: Diversity, Population Change, and Gentrification in the Preservation Dialogue
The stem of contemporary culture in the Baltics arose from the countryside and folklore. Among the traditions of the Baltic cultures there is ‘talka’ – a term derived from work in the field, which historically was the act of communal joint work of the entire village to help each family be more efficient with their agricultural work, such as haymaking, rye harvesting, manuring, threshing, flax pulling and breaking, etc. Known in other countries as "bee", the term ‘talka’ in the Baltics refers to unpaid voluntary community work. As the communities have been moving from villages to cities, communal work has moved there with them in a natural way. Currently, communal work efforts include preservation of historic sites and buildings, and it is a frequent and popular act of improving living conditions in some areas of large-scale panel housing complexes, such as backyards, playgrounds, gardens and more.
Over the last few years, the author conducted case studies of ‘talka’ and its impact on historic heritage and small communities in Latvia, through various study works, analyses, workshops and through observation while living there, immersed in the culture.
The paper will review examples of combined efforts of small communities, often directed by architects and preservationists, to improve the appearance, performance and security of public spaces, such as the renovation of the Sarkandaugava neighborhood panel house public areas in Riga, and period maintenance of historic sites, such as the Daugavgriva fortress in Riga, dating back to the 17th century. The application of such joint work has allowed for low-cost gentrification and urban upgrade of several neighborhoods of Riga.