Ķīpsalas Ola — ar unikālu izpratni par telpu un vidi, žurnāls Būvinženieris

Ķīpsalas Ola — with a unique understanding of space and environment, Būvinženieris magazine

Form follows consciousness - Spiriterritory's conversation with Uldis Pīlēnas Reading Ķīpsalas Ola — with a unique understanding of space and environment, Būvinženieris magazine 26 minutes

Concrete, glass and wood in an egg-shaped building - this was precisely the vision of architect Uldis Pilēns, which was realized in a unique project - a complex of buildings Ola Foundation in the middle of Ķīpsala. 

Why an egg? The answer is given by the architect himself, quoting the beautiful saying: "If the egg is torn from the outside, then it is the end of the unborn life. If the egg is cracked from the inside with help from the outside, then it is the beginning of a new life." An egg-shaped building, or Ola is a building whose concept, as emphasized by U. Pīlēns, manifests the essence of the modern technological century through architecture, based on three whales, or today's most popular building materials - concrete, glass and wood. 


The project is a family foundation founded by entrepreneurs Ilze and Ulda Pīleni Ola Foundation a carefully nurtured idea, created with the aim of operating in the field of art, music, education. Ola Foundation the ensemble of buildings consists of a three-story central building in the shape of a symbolic egg and a small hotel with ten rooms. Both buildings use glass, concrete and wood as the dominant materials, supplemented with various technological innovations. It is the combination of architecture, complex engineering and high-quality interior that makes Ola Foundation complex into a unique project, where each of these aspects naturally complement each other, thus creating an austere, enjoyable and intuitive environment. 


At this moment Ola is a creative residence for projects related to art, music and education, a place for discussion platforms and other events. On the 1st floor of the building there is a 300 sq m wide professionally equipped exhibition hall, the 2nd floor is designed for holding various seminars and educational projects, in the center of which there is a round meditation room. On the 3rd floor, there is a music hall and a library with one of the building's most visually and technically impressive solutions – a round, automatically controlled retractable roof. A building management system has also been specially developed for this project, with which ventilation, heating, cooling, lighting, sound, etc. can be controlled centrally and conveniently. systems. On the other hand, the adjacent hotel building is intended for guests attending one of the events. 


The architect of the building complex is Uldis Pīlēn, and the interior is a joint work of the Pīlēn couple. A wide range of people participated in the implementation of the project UPB groups a team of experts in engineering, construction, production, management and other fields. Private capital was invested in the implementation of the project.


First floor below ground water level


You can say that Eggs the uniqueness begins with the foundations themselves, because the first floor of the building is built completely below the groundwater level. U. Pīlēns says that the building plot is located in the lowest part of Ķīpsala, where the former bed of the Daugava was located, so the ground is very unstable. This was also proven in the process of preparing the base, when we had to deal with uncontrolled amounts of water. 


The foundation slab of the main building is built approximately 5 m below the groundwater level. 2 types of waterproofing membranes were used for the underground part. For the foundation slab and parts of the technical premises for the underground walls SikaProof A+ membrane. It is a membrane resistant to water pressure during concreting wake up with the concrete and any possibility of water migration between the membrane and the concrete is excluded. This membrane is a novelty in the field of waterproofing materials and was used for the first time in Latvia. A membrane was used for the walls of the main building SikaProof P, which is a water pressure-resistant membrane that is glued to constructed walls. Both membranes are designed for mutual connection, which makes them a single overall system. So far, no water ingress has been detected in any part of the building where the membranes have been used.


The underground part of the building is insulated with an unconventional method - blown two-component polyurethane foam. The coefficient of thermal conductivity of this material is lower than that of polystyrene foam, which allows it to be embedded in a thinner layer. The application process is also seamless and faster. The structure of the additional material consists of closed pores and is waterproof.


The construction of the elevator unlocks an underground spring


Eggs in the center is built a round hydraulic elevator specially made for this project, which is the only one in Latvia. The construction of the elevator shaft pit was carried out simultaneously with the construction of the foundations and created unprecedented challenges. "Under the foundation of the elevator, which was already the deepest part of the building (about 6.5 m below the groundwater level), a cylinder-shaped room or shell had to be built in addition, in which to place the lifting piston of the elevator. The depth of the shell is an additional 4.7 m. The total depth was 11.2 m below the maximum possible groundwater level," he says UPB House construction manager Konstantin Smotrovs.


The cylinder liner solution itself was a unique engineering solution, developed theoretically, with no real practical examples to learn from. The shell consists of 2 parts - an outer steel casing tube (diameter 80 cm), which serves as a temporary mold, and an inner steel tube (diameter 50 cm), which is sealed from the bottom, a hermetic, insulated, free space for the insertion and movement of the elevator piston. 


The outer unsealed pipe was vibrated into the ground at a depth of 5.5 m below  designed elevator shaft pit marks. Then with the flushing-pumping technology it was necessary to get rid of the soil inside the outer steel casing pipe  and the inner tube must be submerged instead. K. Smotrovs remembers: "At the time of flushing, an unexpected aquifer was ruptured in the ground and the trapped groundwater began to release from the depths of the underground, the strength and volume of which was much greater than normal groundwater. A volcano-like spring flowed out through a submerged pipe 80 cm in diameter and  quickly began to fill the elevator cavity. From its aggressiveness, one could understand that it is ready to flood the entire large construction pit to the top and sink the already built structures."


Thanks to the prompt response from the cooperation company SIA UPRENT (in the area of groundwater lowering), additional pumps were supplied to be able to drain the huge amount of water and prevent flooding. However, the water came and came. In the following month, hydrogeological information was studied, attempts were made to stop the spring with the help of special foam injections, additional groundwater spikes were dug in to lower the strength of the spring and to be able to tampon it. 


Only when it was possible to dig 35 pieces into the ground. powerful filter pipes were specially delivered from Poland and 3 pumps were operating in the construction pit with a total pumped water volume of 200 cubic meters per hour, the situation became more controllable. At the same time, the bottom was flushed/pumped out in the sunken spring (outer pipe) and the inner pipe was submerged, which was closed, insulated and filled with ballast water, so that it could sink under the influence of its own weight in the place of the spring. Hydroconcrete was filled between the inner and outer pipe using underwater concreting technology, which pushed the water out of this space, simultaneously connecting the two pipes into one whole and tamping the source.


After the hydroconcrete hardened, the ballast water was pumped out of the inner tube, thus freeing up space for the intended elevator piston. Next, the construction pit of the elevator shaft, self-monolithicized with the mentioned shell, was built, and the foundation slab around the elevator area was completed. K. Smotrovs states that for another two months, large-scale pumping of groundwater continued (up to 150-180 cubic meters per hour) until a sufficient volume of the above-ground construction part of the building was built to reach a mass that would compensate for the groundwater pressure and the building would not be pushed out of the lands as a float. 


The complexity of the elevator construction is also confirmed by the company Riga elevators Head of the New Equipment Department

Vyacheslav Petrov.: "This elevator we installed is the most technically complex and unique so far.

To keep the circular elevator as quiet as possible and with a minimum number of visible parts, such elevators are usually designed with a single hydraulic cylinder located directly below the elevator. This is very important because the depth of the cylinder bore should be at least 1/2 the height of the lifter. It was necessary to take into account that the radius of the door and the radius of the cabin cannot be less than a certain value, otherwise, when opening the door, it will reach the guides and cannot open. The work process on the construction site was complicated and unpredictable, but the result is satisfying."


One of the prides of the building is the exposed concrete


The core of the building consists of massive and round exposed monolithic concrete walls, in which small round stainless steel elements are incorporated as accents. Exposed concrete plays a special role in this building and U. Pīlēns does not hide that his requirements were very high. The main criteria were gray monolithic concrete with clean formwork joints and tension points and sharp corners. 


Work on the development of concrete composition and concreting technology was started half a year before concreting of the first exposed structures. The quality of exposed concrete is affected by an extremely large number of factors, therefore several important aspects were included in the framework of the technology development: concrete composition that maintains the necessary consistency for at least 3 hours, shrinkage-compensating and other concrete additives that ensure concreting both in early spring and hot summer, forms, concrete technological process of mixing and concreting, as well as maintenance and protection of structures during construction.


First SIA Concrete Research Center concrete samples were prepared in the laboratory and the most successful concrete recipe was found. Before the construction of the walls of the building, a fragment of the wall of the central core of the building with dimensions of 2 x 3.5 m and a bending radius of 3.5 m was also built as a sample. Ltd UPB House technical director Artis Petrovskis says that concrete was supplied to the facility by SIA Transportbetons MB, who made the concrete according to a pre-developed recipe, taking into account the expected outdoor weather conditions during the setting and hardening of the concrete. Information on the parameters of the mixture was transferred Concrete research center for the laboratory, who checked the delivered concrete and gave an opinion before it was placed in the formwork. 


Several days after concreting, the control of the concrete curing process and properties continued using smart solutions SmartRock and Maturix, which monitored environmental and concrete temperature, moisture parameters, and also allowed predicting the development of concrete strength, ensuring that the concrete was rendered at the right time. "With the help of such solutions, it was possible to achieve a more efficient use of forms, guaranteeing the visual and mechanical properties of concrete. The key to success in this project was definitely close cooperation between concrete experts, its manufacturer, installer and customer," A.Petrovskis admits. 


Mold quality for a perfect surface


It should be emphasized that in exposed concrete technology, one of the most important requirements is the quality, tightness and cleanliness of the formwork surfaces. "The surface of the forms directly depends on the plywood used for lining. It must not only be new every time concreting, but also calibrated and from the same production batch. Significant complications were with the supply and quality of water-resistant plywood. Our domestically produced water-resistant plywood could not meet the high requirements - small ripples appeared on the top layer due to moisture on the edges of the plywood, which left irreparable visual defects on the concrete surface. After discarding several batches of such plywood, an approximate solution for water resistance was found - Poliform plywood, which is used in the construction of skate park ramps," recalls K. Smotrovs.


He brags that the care and approach of SIA Rigensi mold masters was comparable to the precision of furniture-making carpenters, rather than to the traditional assembly of concrete molds. "The process of placing concrete here was like the dexterous hand movements, taste sensations and taimings,” the construction manager figuratively compares. 


About concrete quality speaks precise and sharp wall corners – edges (without the traditional 45˚ split) with grooves (niches) intended for glass partitions and precise grooves for embedding skirting boards. A high degree of craftsmanship was required to create curved concrete walls with precisely executed communication openings and motor niches for the retractable roof. It should be noted that the exposed concrete is also used in the hotel building and as such craftsmen noteworthy round concrete frameless skylights in the hotel corridors, which add a special design accent.


Facade glazing without pillars


Another pride of the building is the glazing of the facade, emphasizes U. Pīlēns. FAMILY Group Guntars Roga, head of the construction design department, says: "Using the experience gained over many years in the field of facades, we created solutions for glazed structures together with the customer. The glazed outer shell of the building is designed without vertical bearing ALU profiles, without visible facade cover profiles, with integrated, automatically parallel sliding windows, doors and stainless steel parts. When the total thickness of the triple glass packages reached 90 mm and the weight exceeded 1100 kg, we were able to achieve thermal conductivity of the packages of 0.5 W/m²K." In addition, part of the connections of the internal glazed partitions of the building were also integrated into the external facade of the building.


An additional challenge for the engineers was the entrance part of the building, where the glazing of the first floor was based on the foundation slabs, and the self-weight of the glazing of the second floor was transferred to the concrete cover of the roof structure, which was successfully implemented in cooperation with concrete and metal engineers. 


It should be noted that the seminar room uses glass with sun protection and screen-printed graphic mesh. From bottom to top, the mesh becomes increasingly dense, reducing sunlight by about 50%. 


Externally, the round building is surrounded by frameless self-supporting laminated milk glass panels over 6500mm high and 2000mm wide, prestressed at the bottom, while the top is supported on point bracing. Such a solution can withstand high wind loads, which we already confirmed last winter, explains architect U. Pīlēns and, referring to the quote by K. G. Jung mentioned at the beginning of the article, he figuratively compares it to the function of an egg shell only in geometric execution.


A 3D model was used for the glazed section, where potential problem areas could be identified in time and solved during the design cycle. All part specifications and assembly drawings were also obtained from the 3D model. 


Unique retractable roof


The third pride of the building is undeniably the visually and technically impressive construction of the retractable roof, which so far has no analogue in Latvian architecture. This is according to the task of U.Pilen  designed, manufactured and installed by the company RKMetal mechanical engineering department RK Machinery. The roof is adapted to the architecture of the building and the requirements of the thermal technical parameters of the enclosing structures. The retractable roof has a round shape with a diameter of 7.4 m and a lifting height of one meter.


The lifting mechanism is characterized RK Metal deputy technical director Ritvars Viš: "The system consists of four separate motors, which lift the roof structure with a worm gear and gear mechanism. Their synchronous operation is monitored  specially installed sensors that allow the roof to be raised smoothly and safely, and also help to assess the weather and warn the user about the safety of use." It is also possible to monitor the working condition of the retractable roof and control it remotely. In case of precipitation, the roof automatically lowers. The rest of the building's roof is designed as a green roof with environmentally friendly plants. 


Innovative concrete ultra-thin floor slabs


A raised floor structure has been created around the perimeter of the building, which is an indoor and outdoor space merges on the same level, so that, according to U.Pilens, when sitting in the seminar room, one feels a connection with nature, with the carefully maintained garden surrounding the building. 


For this purpose, ultra-thin, large-sized floor covering slabs made of an innovative material, ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC), developed from local aggregates, were used. Composite fibers for dispersed reinforcement with high strength and corrosion resistance are used to obtain the flexural strength of concrete. An extremely low water-cement ratio of 0.27 is used for the concrete mixture, which ensures high density and strength, low water permeability and excellent wear resistance.


The plates were made by SIA Reinforced concrete MB and MB Group technical director Artūrs Lukašenoks explains that the large-sized plate elements are made using surface hardening delay technology, which exposes the fine grains of quartz and allows to obtain a structured, rough surface - this simultaneously improves the anti-slip properties of the surface. Compared to steel reinforcement, composite fibers used for dispersed reinforcement allow for improved durability and durability of concrete. 


"The oval shape of the building determines that the geometry of each production element is unique. In order to obtain high-precision curved shapes, the molds are made with CNC milling technology. The technology of printed molds is also used in the production of elements. The shape of the shell of the concrete element is created with the filling of a pressed mold," A.Lukašenoks explains the technology.


Spherical ceiling for excellent acoustics


According to the architect's design, the ceilings of the central rooms of the first and second floors were planned to be spherical with a ceiling curvature radius of 11,400 mm. In order to implement this, a ceiling model was created in a 3D modeling program, according to the parameters of which each individual ceiling segment was cut out of polystyrene cubes with a laser, which, after being glued together in the object, obtained the spherical shape provided for in the project.


The spherical ceiling helps to create the acoustic effect necessary for a meditation room, for example, a whispered text is very audible. In addition, an essential task in the meditation room was to ensure the necessary air exchange without creating unnecessary noises in the room. To achieve this, the main task was to reduce the air flow rate in the diffusers. For this purpose, the air space above the spherical ceiling structure was successfully used, where the speed of the air entering specially divided ceiling pockets was reduced and only then allowed into the meditation room.  "Essentially, the ceiling structure is one large slow air flow inlet/outlet diffuser, where on the outer perimeter shadows stitch the air intake/exhaust openings are hidden from view," sums up Agris  Sunshine, UPB House Project manager of engineering networks.


A specially designed building management system


A building control automation system (VAS) was developed especially for the project the heart of the building. UPB House The project manager of electrical networks, Uldis Šteinbergs, lists that with its help, equipment alarm monitoring, lighting, control of the heating unit, meter readings, control of doors, windows, internal and external blinds, control of air handling equipment, control of exhaust fans, control of room humidity, temperature and CO2 control, heating/cooling ceiling and warm floor control.


The building also has its own weather station, which reads the meteorological conditions (humidity, temperature, wind speed, light intensity, precipitation). Based on the data obtained from the weather station, VAS controls the equipment built into the building to prevent overheating of the building, moisture entering the building or damage to the built-in systems due to external weather conditions. For example, when the wind exceeds 6 m/s, the outdoor blinds, regardless of the preset position, are raised. At a certain wind speed or amount of precipitation, the retractable roof is closed and its manual opening is not possible until the weather has changed.


Also, the system installed in the building allows to collect and archive energy consumption data of engineering systems, so that the system user can later analyze them and find the most energy-efficient solutions for energy saving, increase/decrease air exchange and set its humidity depending on the expected flow of people, effectively use the energy obtained from solar collectors, etc. 


In addition to energy-efficient solutions, it should be noted that 84 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the hotel building. Those are SoliTek solar panels with a total maximum power of 27.72 kW, which is already a small power plant.


Heating from the ceiling


The building is mostly heated by a warm floor heating system, radiators in some places, and heat-radiating ceiling panels are used on the third floor. Radiant ceiling heating/cooling panels increase the useful area of the room: they do not interfere with furniture, they are visually invisible. Thanks to the large surface area, a lower temperature heat carrier is used for heating, which allows the use of gas condensing boilers with higher efficiency. Accordingly, a higher temperature coolant is used for cooling, which allows refrigeration equipment to be used with a higher efficiency factor. A lower temperature of the heat carrier and a higher temperature of the coolant ensures lower energy losses and a more pleasant feeling of comfort, since there is no noticeable temperature difference in the room.


Eggs steel radiating ceiling panels are used in the building, but industrially built-in plasterboard panels in the hotel PEX-Xa a tube system that is functionally similar to warm floors. The same system serves for both heating and cooling. 


A disadvantage of the system is the possibility of condensate falling on the panels in cooling mode. In both buildings of this project, it was solved in the summer by drying the supply air in the air conditioning unit. Dehumidifying the air when the humidity is high outside provides an additional feeling of comfort at a higher indoor temperature.


Air purification with UV 


The building's ventilation system is also special, which, in addition to maintaining a comfortable microclimate, also takes care of air quality and microbiological protection. In the main  a central air conditioning unit is installed in the building, which provides air exchange and filtration depending on the weather conditions - heating, cooling, drying and humidification, air recirculation and microbiological protection for special conditions.


Microbiological protection, using the oxidation process provided by the photocatalyst properties of ultraviolet radiation, prevents odors, visible smoke, microbial growth in the air and on surfaces. The device has built-in UV-C radiation lamps with an electromagnetic radiation wavelength of 253.7 nm. This wavelength optimally renders harmless viruses and nucleic acids. In addition, lamps of this particular wavelength do not produce ozone, which is a threat to the surrounding environment. Technically, it is a separate section in the air handling unit, equipped with UV-C lamps, which is protected to prevent service personnel from accessing the lamps during their operation.


Self-supporting spiral staircase


Another technically challenging and design-impressive element is the stainless steel spiral staircase installed on the exterior of the building, designed for the evacuation of people from the second and roof floors. The stairs are made of AISI 304 stainless steel sheet. “This staircase is designed as a self-supporting structure based on foundation slabs, but attached at the top of the stairs with two hinged fasteners that keep the structure from tilting. However, the structure of the stairs itself is capable of taking the vertical load from its own weight and the changing load of people. Its construction literally works like a spring, which, depending on the changing load, can settle up to 50 mm," says SIA UPB House construction manager Māris Homka. In order to reduce the weight of the structure and achieve a good visual effect, rhythmic circular holes of different diameters were cut with a laser in the steps and railings.


Details and nuances


In addition to constructions and technical innovations, the building complex surprises with well-thought-out details and nuances both in the interior and in various room elements, which give a special mood, increase quality, provide convenience and allow you to simply enjoy the space. For example, the exhibition hall on the first floor can boast of the world's best painting or museum lighting system. Those are ERCO Eclipse luminaires with the possibility of adjusting the light intensity, changing the light spectrum from 1500 - 8000 K and the possibility of framing, when the works are framed with light and create the illusion that the light comes from the inside.


A compact, highly technologically equipped kitchen has been set up to ensure catering for events and hotel guests. Here is everything for a comfortable, handy work of a professional chef. 


The decoration of both the main building and the hotel was created by the Pileni couple and references to Morocco, Venice, and Japan can be seen in it. For example, lamps have been made in Marrakech that provide unique and pleasant lighting. Several interior items are made according to the drawings of U.Pilens, for example hotel bathrooms. Murano glass chandeliers from Venice are placed in the corridors of the hotel, which, as U. Pīlēns says with a smile, at his age, give the room a little vintage feeling. The walls of the hotel are decorated with works created by the architect himself, as well as photos taken by Karlina Vītoliņa. In general, the building complex uses as much as possible what was created in Latvia - from local building materials to interior items. 



Eggs technical parameters of the building, component 1 and component 3:


Technical parameters of the hotel building:

2. components

Construction area. 451.6 m2

Construction area. 185.9 m2

Total area: 904.7 m2

Total area: 305.75 m2

Building volume: 4119 m3

Building volume: 1370 m3



Client: Foundation Ola Foundation

Architect: Uldis Pīlēns

Design works: SIA UPB Projects, IS Engineering office Būve & Forma

General contractor: SIA UPB House

Building structures: SIA RK Metal, IS Reinforced concrete MB

Concrete products: SIA Transportbetons MB, IS Concrete Research Center

Earthworks, Elevator piston shell: SIA EBV Group

Construction of exposed monolithic reinforced concrete structures: SIA Rigensi

Groundwater lowering: SIA UPRENT

Windows, facades, glazed constructions: SIA FAMILY group, IS Glass Center

Aluminum facade of the hotel: SIA H&L Studio

Installation of thermal insulation of the walls of the underground part: SIA Mateuss

Construction of both roof structures and the ventilated facade of the Hotel: SIA Hoproof

Finishing works: SIA CRASH

Wooden interior doors: SIA Liva AB

Glass partitions: SIA Door Solution

Floor tiles: SIA Pilsakmens

Works of electrical networks and low current networks: SIA NCS

ŚKT engineering networks: Construction of SIA AKVA

ŪK, AVK engineering networks: SIA Media Construction

Ventilation and cooling networks: SIA IONICA SYSTEMS

Gas networks: SIA return

Landscaping: Ltd Gallant

Self-supporting spiral staircase: SIA AN Dizains

Building management: SIA ENNA



Text: Antra Velkhere

Photo: in AS UPB archive, photographer Madara Kupla