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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

A Vacation home on Easter Island in Kaltene, Rojas district, Latvia by Zaigas Gailes Birojs

June 11th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal

Article source:  Zaigas Gailes Birojs

Living house

The original red brick building – a Fish Factory pumping station was built by collective farm Banga engineers in 1980s. Over 20 years since it was built, it has never been exploired. The monument of industrial architecture from the Soviet era was transformed into a vacation home for ourselves.
Transformation of the Pumping Station into a vacation home is an uninvasive conversion of both site and building.

Aerial view of the Vacation home on Easter island, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks

  • Architects: Zaigas Gailes Birojs 
  • Project: A Vacation home on Easter Island
  • Location: Kaltene, Rojas district, Latvia
  • Total area: Living house: 798 m2, Bath house: 52 m2
  • Authors: Zaiga Gaile, Maris Gailis, Agnese Sirma
  • Project: Zaigas Gailes Birojs Ltd.
  • Client/Developer: Maris Gailis
  • General contractor: PS Serviss Ltd.
  • Engineers: Construction- Tavs Nams Ltd.,Water supply and sewage; Heating and ventilation – Ardiko projektesana Ltd.,Electricity project- MJ elektro Ltd.,Low intensity current project- Telemaks Ltd.,  Hydrotechnical works – BGS Ltd., Harbour construction works – HT-konsalting Ltd.
  • Project: 2005-2006
  • Building process: 2006-2010

Ruins of fish factory pumping station before conversion to a vacation home, Image Courtesy © Maris Gailis

The original brick walls were preserved and repaired where neccesary. The facade has been insulated and covered with rusted corten steel plates from Ruukki. It was important to us that the square block on the island – for many years, a prominent Kaltene landmark – keep its original reddish tone. The Pump House is opened up on the seaward side. The blind northeast façade is given large, new windows with aluminium frames, like those in the façade facing the shore. The building is no longer a massive block, it becomes open and transparent. In the middle, on both sides, are glass doors of the same dimensions as the windows. All of the tall windows and doors are outfitted with sliding shutters. The shutters, like the cladding of the façade, are made of corten steel plates, but are perforated and mounted on stainless steel frames. Architectural details and landscaping elements such as the gate and the outside lamps are also made of rusted steel. The height of the former pump room (7 m) makes it possible to build mezzanine platforms on steel frames clad with exotic wood (Yatoba) planks.

Night view from the pier , Image Courtesy © Ainars Meiers

The subterranean part of the building has been covered with a reinforced concrete slab to create a basement with a low ceiling. The style of the interior was determined by the industrial origins of the building, as can be seen in the open constructions and the rough, untreated surfaces. The brick external walls have been lightly trowelled with lime mortar and painted white, leaving the texture of the brickwork visible. The partition walls are from aerated concrete blocks trowelled with lime mortar and painted white. The reinforced concrete panels of the ceiling and the supporting beams have been minimally restored and left in their original condition, with only a light wash of concrete paint. The metal telpher that moves along the two load-bearing rails below the ceiling and the blue-tinted rails have simply been washed and coated with furniture wax. The rails, which run from one end of the house to the other, fulfil a number of new functions.The ceiling luminaires along both sides of the house are mounted on these rails. The free-standing wall of shelf units is held upright with the help of a new aluminium truss spanned across the rails. The pulleys for the wires and counterweights supporting the metal hood of the fireplace are also fastened to the rails.

The building has ribbon-shaped foundation on palling. All of the living area floors are heated with water from the ground- source heat pump and clad with exotic wood planks.

Architect Zaiga Gaile at the Entrance door. Facade detail of the perforated corten steel shutters, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks

The Bath house-Nautilus

The Bathhouse – the Nautilus – is located on the beach. It resembles the turret of a submarine and is clad with riveted stainless-steel plates. The strange object is an attempt at organic, sculptural expression in architectural form, a perhaps somewhat ironic version of the traditional Latvian bathhouse. We understood that the object would have to be something sculptural – different in form and material from the main house.

Living space with the dining table and kitchen area, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks

Nautilus has a stainless steel carcass construction, which was created in a warehouse, transportated and put together on site.  The outer plates were clenched to the stainless steel construction.  Plates – 1.5mm thick (Finnish). Between the carcass there is a 20cm thick layer of foam-glass insulation (imported from Germany). Inner wall finish- white plastering. Doors, windows – individual design, made from stainless steel. Heating – electric warm floors. Ventilation – natural. Floor – stainless steel plates. Sauna – electric stove. Finished with asp wooden planks. Outer bath tube is created from individual design in stainless steel with two massage spouts and underwater lightning. Bath water is kept warm with electric heat ~37 degrees. Bath tube has a cover, to keep the water warm, when it is not used. Water is taken from underground drillhole supply. Nautilus was created by individual constructor Dzintars Pliksis, who worked on the site for a year. Nautilus bath house is defined as a design object, and creation of such took a very long time and accurate work. The owner Maris Gailis found the soviet time perescope by putting an add in the internet. The wooden furniture in the interior is of exotic wood Yatoba – the same as in the living house. Lightning objects were taken from ship interior catalogues. Nautilus idea originated during Christmass holiday as a reflection of captain’s Nemo cabin out of Gil Vern’s novel. Young people call it: cosmic architecture. The success lies in the fact that all the work was done very attentively and accurately-a perfect quality.

Lounging area – ‘yurt’ with individually designed mobile fireplace, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks


The family vacation home  is an environmentally friendly object that is autonomous in regard of heating, ventilation, water supply and sewage. The only exception is electric power, although we had initially hoped to produce power with a wind generator. The idea has been put on hold until government support is made available for individually produced electric power. The buildings are heated with help of a ground- source heat pump that takes energy from an artesian drill hole.

View of the children’s apartment with closed shutters, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks

Natural air exchange is provided by ventilation ducts in the chimneys of the Pumping Station. The rooms in the basement and the main hall are ventilated through the original pipes of the pumping system installed below the ground level of the island.

Water is drawn from a 70 m deep artesian well located in the beach zone. Sewage is biologically treated. The biological purification tank is buried on the south end of the island, the purified water is drained into the ground.

At the end of the mole is a transformer substation that provides the island with power. Power cables run under the surface of the mole from the transformer station to the basement of the main building. A 32 kW generator has also been installed in the basement to provide electricity in the case of a power failure. The fuel supply is sufficient for seven days.

Master bedroom on mezzazine platform, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks


The name of the area – Easter Island was chosen due to the fact that the owners- Zaiga and Maris Gaili discovered the property on a trip along Kurzeme shoreline on Easter morning. Therefore the design of perforation of the window and door Corten-steel shutters was created based on the original sculptures of the Moai – the stone giants of the original Easter Island, downscaled 1:250 – which appear to be watching each other from opposite shutters.

Architectural details and landscaping elements such as the gate and the outside lamps are also individually designes and made of rusted steel. They look as if they have been there forever, corroded over the years – just like the old water pipes of the Pumping Station, which have an authentic patina.

The bath house ‘Nautilus’ located on private beach behind the vacation house, Image Courtesy © Maija Putnina


The design of the interior is an exercise in contrasts: rough, cool industrial surfaces and perfectly finished, warm wood. The stark element is represented by the crudely finished brickwork walls, the concrete panels, the metal beams, platforms, stairs and railings, the aluminium windows. The contrast is achieved with consistent and abundant use of wood – a style borrowed from the architecture of yachts and ships.

The concept for the furnishings is based on highquality design that has stood the test of time.

View to the open sea from the outdoor bath tub in Nautilus, Image Courtesy © Ansis Starks


Kitchen was individually designed and equipped by Bulthaup. It is located on one side of the living area beneath the master apartment balcony. It has an island with installed sink, shelves and wine refrigirator; built-in coffe mashine, ice-maker, microwave, stove and oven. All equipment from Gaggenau.

Exclusive elements

The Vacation house is located on the only artificial island in the Baltic sea.

Given the name of Easter Island due to the Easter Holidays, when it was discovered by the owners.The conversion project anticipates preservation of the island’s landscape and architectural features, these being understood as a monument of Soviet industrial architecture – a token of a bygone time and place. Transformation of the Pumping Station into a vacation home is an uninvasive conversion of both site and building.

Site plan, Image Courtesy © ZaigasGailesBirojs

Additional information

International awards

Vacation Home On Easter Island has been shortlisted in the category House at WORLD ARCHITECTURE FESTIVAL 2012, which took place in Singapore from October 3 to 5, 2012,

Project -  Vacation home on Easter Island has been nominated for Mies van der Rohe 2011 award.

Project has won the International Architecture Award 2010 by The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design; and been 2009 House of the Year by WAN (World Architecture News) long list finalist.

Ground floor plan, Image Courtesy © ZaigasGailesBirojs

Local awards:

2009    The Best Projects of Latvia 2009 award – A Vacation home on Easter Island, Kaltene, Latvia

Annual award of Latvian Architect Association

2009    Public vote winner 2009 – A Vacation home on Easter Island, Kaltene, Latvia

2008    The Best Modern Solution in Historical Environment – reconstruction of pump station of experimental factory, Kaltene, Roja disctrict, Latvia

Annual award of Cultural Heritage 2007

2008    The Best Building in Latvia, 2007 in nomination Reconstruction, First Prize – conversion of former fish pumping station to residential house, Kaltene, Roja district, Latvia

Annual award of Latvian Builders Associantion

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Categories: holiday home, House

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