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Old September 27th, 2009, 09:07 PM   #1
Vecais Sakarnis
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Dreamlike reality: Art Nouveau of Riga



Have you ever seen strange, but amazingly beautiful cities in your dreams, especially in those dreams, which has a very strong sense of reality? Where every detail is visible so clearly, that you can't believe it was just a dream even after awakening? I have had a few of such dreams, and I have always marveled about where these beautiful visions come from - maybe from other galaxies or parallel Universes? Anyway, there are cities with such dreamlike qualities in our planet Earth as well. There are cities which speaks with you in soul's language, which is universal language. Think about Antonio Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. Think about Hundertwasser buildings in Vienna. Think about any other buildings you know which are so (...) that you can't describe these feelings in words. Well, of course, you can (beautiful, magnificent, splendid, blah, blah, blah) but it's senseless.
Riga's Art Nouveau, I would dare to say, is another such architectural miracle. The fact that it's not as famous as Gaudi or Hundertwasser, has to do only with the lack of information and advertising. Zillions of people haven't even heard about Riga's Art Nouveau. Oh, if these people would know what they're missing...
In this thread, I will try to give you the (...) architecture of Riga, mostly Art Nouveau. The architecture which will expand your consciousness without narcotics. And if you will like it - tell your relatives, friends, acquaintances about it. Because one thing is for sure - if there are beings in other galaxies or parallel Universes, Riga is one of the cities they see in their dreams!

We will start with the in-depth exploration of so-called "Silent centre". Silent centre is a northern-western part of Riga historical centre, about 1 sq.km large area which holds the largest concentration of the most unique Riga's Art Nouveau architecture examples.




Silent centre map. In my web page you can click on these red pointers and get pictures of these places:



Silent Centre started to develop at the end of 19th/beginning of 20th Century. In 1900, in the previous place of city's gardening, Riga started to build a new street network, starting with Alberta street (however, many of buildings on area around Vīlandes street were built a few years earlier already). Silent Centre quickly became a place where most talented architects (to name Mikhail Eisenstein as the most famous one) freely expressed themselves and competed with one another in the most modish architecture style of that time - Youth Style (Jugendstil, as Germans call it), Freedom style (Italian's name) or Art Nouveau, as we know it today. The place became a place of residence for the "cream of society" and this public was varied - from artists and writers to businessmans, jurists and doctors. Many of locally famous people lived exactly in Alberta street.

Alberta street

Alberta street in the beginning of 20th Century










Alberta street 4 is one of the most famous Riga's Art Nouveau symbols, built in 1904. It's one of 6 Eisenstein's works in Alberta street and few years ago was completely reconstructed - there are 8 luxurious flats now. Building's facade is ornated by many Art Nouveau elements - mythological animals, faces, flora themes, etc. What I found the most amazing about this building is it's window style in 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor, central part of the building. To my mind, exactly this combination creates the main character of the building.









Alberta street 2 - neighbour building, another Eisenstein's project. Built in 1906. This one is different in it's style - more massive looking, without animals and faces.







Alberta street 2a. Built in the same year - 1906. Guess 3 times which is the architect... This building suprises with it's excessive floor, through it's "windows" you can see skies. Very nice effect! The facade richly ornamented again, motives from ancient Egypt there as well.



Buildings hall and staircase was renovated back in 1990, but outside cries for reconstruction - although this, decayed state has it's own charm.



Alberta street 8. One of the first Eisenstein's projected buildings on Alberta street - built in 1903. Another one of my favourites.





You can spend an hour to properly explore just one building. You can gradually discover it - all it's elements separately and then the whole symmetrical combination which they makes all together.



Alberta street 9. Just opposite to the previous Eisenstein's masterpiece stands grand eclecticism style building by another very important architect - Konstantīns Pēkšēns (architect of more than 250 masonry buildings!), which was one of the Latvian national version of Art Nouveau (National Romanticism) creators. Shouldn't be fantastic to live in one of this building's top floors - from where one can get view of Alberta street, with it's "Eisenstein's side" in the opposing party?



Back to Eisenstein - facade details on Alberta street 6.
Don't have a picture of whole building - it's hidden behind trees. These faces over the entrance symbolizes man's thread of life - although it's rather impossible to decode such message when looking at them



Alberta street 10
- impressive eclecticism building by Paul Mandelstam (1903). University of Latvia, Geography Faculty is located there.



To be continued...
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Old September 28th, 2009, 12:20 AM   #2
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Really beautiful!
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Old September 28th, 2009, 04:39 AM   #3
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Very nice photos!
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Old September 30th, 2009, 01:26 PM   #4
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Veeeery nice !
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Old September 30th, 2009, 07:07 PM   #5
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Awesome, very nice photos indeed
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Old October 1st, 2009, 09:35 AM   #6
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A lot of relief
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Old October 1st, 2009, 10:15 PM   #7
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I've checked out your site. Great photos there.
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Old October 5th, 2009, 12:07 AM   #8
Vecais Sakarnis
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We continue to explore the finest buildings of Riga (mostly, but not all - Art Nouveau). We go farther to the end of Alberta street where it crosses with Strēlnieku street and on the corner there is located...

...Alberta street 13 - another one building by Mr. Eizensteins, one of his most experimental buildings, where the architect/engineer in decorative Art Nouveau style experimented not only with various architectural influences, but also with construction materials and elements.



It's built in 1904 and now houses Belgium embassy as well as Riga Graduate School of Law.



Round corner of the building. Those screaming womens on the left and the right side are probably in shock about the current economic situation in Latvia



All these sculptures and ornaments would be enough for a small palace:





We are slowly going towards the next building...



...which is Strēlnieku street 4a. Of course, Eisenstein again - even more heavily decorated building. Built in 1905 as a private school. In Soviet times - believe it or not - there was a dormitory dorms in this luxury building. Now it is school (university) again - the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics in Riga is located there.









In front of this building, the monument to Riga mayor (1901-1912) George Armitstedt is located. His time was probably the most succesful time in the history of Riga - from the beginning of 20th Century until 1st World War the city virtually exploded in it's development.



Now we can step back to the Alberta street crossing point and take a look at different style building - Alberta street 12. This is the work of Konstantīns Pēkšēns (it was his personal house) & Eižens Laube, built in 1903.



This building is considered to be the National Romanticism version of Art Nouveau, it includes also Renaissance and Medieval architectural elements.





One of the most notorious Latvian writers - Rūdolfs Blaumanis, and one of the most notorious painters - Jānis Rozentāls lived in this building as well.







View of all these 3 buildings from Strēlnieku street looks just great:



To be continued...
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Old October 5th, 2009, 12:19 PM   #9
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These buildings are blowing me away simply awesome!
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Old October 5th, 2009, 12:39 PM   #10
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Beautiful buildings! who lives in them though? and what happened after communism ended, did they let people live in those places for free or did they buy the place?
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Old October 5th, 2009, 01:15 PM   #11
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All communist nationalised properties were returned to previous pre-war owners or their descendants.
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Old October 6th, 2009, 02:58 AM   #12
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Wow, awesome pics.
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Old October 6th, 2009, 03:14 AM   #13
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Great looking buildings!!! thanks for the pics
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Old October 6th, 2009, 01:00 PM   #14
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Fantastic thread. Great architecture!
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Old October 6th, 2009, 11:19 PM   #15
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Good God. The place looks stunning; such attention to detail, clean and organised. The weather looks good too

Is Russian spoken much in Latvia?

It's at the top of my list of places to visit...it'll be soon. Thanks for all your pics.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 01:29 PM   #16
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Yes, Russian language is very common in Latvia, even more in Riga, because in Riga 57% of the population aren't Latvians, and most of Latvians speak in Russian, just part of the younger generation, especially those who have come to Riga from other parts of Latvia, don't speak in Russian.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 09:56 PM   #17
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57% of Riga isn't Latvian?! WOW. Mainly Russian then?

I love the tradtional style of the city; is there much modern architecture? (I'm sorry I'm asking so many Q's lol)
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Old October 7th, 2009, 11:34 PM   #18
Vecais Sakarnis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Libertango View Post
57% of Riga isn't Latvian?! WOW. Mainly Russian then?

I love the tradtional style of the city; is there much modern architecture? (I'm sorry I'm asking so many Q's lol)
No need to be sorry about that - I love people asking questions, because that means the thread has roused interest in them.

Russians in Riga are just a bit less than Latvians - here data from wikipedia: "According to the 2008 data, ethnic Latvians make up 42.3% of the population of Riga, with the percentage of ethnic Russians at 41.7%, Belarusians at 4.3%, Ukrainians at 3.9%, Poles at 2.0%, and others ethnicities at 5.8%." This is due to the russification policy which Soviet Union realized in Latvia, because before WW2 there were only 7 % Russians in Riga.
As regards to modern architecture - no, good modern architecture isn't very common in Riga. Well, you can find examples here and there in all over the city, but then you have to be a local or very interested to find them - I show these examples in Thursdays in my Riga daily thread (mixed with Soviet time buildings). Promise one more tomorrow.
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Old October 11th, 2009, 08:12 PM   #19
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So if (when) I come to Riga, and I speak some Russian, I will be fine, then; how widely spoken is english?

Plus, what's the weather like around February time?
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Old October 11th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #20
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awesome city! I will move there onetime. when were these buildings renovated and what was the demographic situation in riga before WWI?
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