Riga boasts of magnificent architectural examples of Art Nouveau, preserved in the city. A kind of German Jugendstil in Riga developed since the late 19th century before the First World War. Magnificent buildings are the real decoration of the town, which lie on the other side of the Freedom Monument.
Art Nouveau style varies from city to city. It can be seen in Vienna, Paris, and Darmstadt. One of the reasons why the Riga Art Nouveau developed into what is now called the Art Nouveau was due to a ban on a typical building in the late 19th to early 20th century. At that time, Europe as a whole, prospered, the population increased, introduced new tech stuff, and people’s lives became more comfortable and surprising. From 1897 to 1913 Riga’s population grew by 88%. The mayor at that time was an Englishman, George Armitstead who imposed a ban on making typical buildings. All of these, allowed architects to realize their wildest fantasies and plans. During my short stay in Riga I was able to walk on its streets where Art Nouveau impresses tourists with unusual shapes and many details in the decoration of the facades. This artistic movement was called “new art” – Art Nouveau, or as it is also called, “Jugendshtil”. This style could be characterized by the use of simple geometric lines and shapes on one hand, and rich decor on the other. The architects made sure that all the functional elements of the building such as balconies, windows, etc. are also decorative. Intricate bas-reliefs, flower garlands twined with simple geometric shapes, sculptures, and statues of lions and fantastic animals are hallmarks of Art Nouveau.
On Strelnieku lela attention is drawn to house 4a. It is now the Stockholm School of Economics. It was built by famous architect, Michael Eisenstein (he was the father of famous film director Sergei Eisenstein of “Battleship Potemkin”), who from 1867 to 1921 lived in Riga. The amazing beautiful facade is decorated in a style typical of this architect. We can see numerous busts and statues on the roof, geometric lines, and a balcony with wrought iron railings.
Buildings of Art Nouveau style on Alberta lela gradually restored. In building number 13 is the Belgian Embassy. This is another Eisenstein creation. The architect also built houses number 8, 6, 4, 2 and 2a. Arch, sphinxes, and dragons give these buildings a unique charm.
Also worth a stroll through the streets of Antonijas lela and Elizabetes lela. Here are the most beautiful houses in the Art Nouveau style in Riga.
While walking through the streets of Riga it may seem that you were in a museum of architecture which present all sorts of architectural styles from Gothic to Modernism. But the real treasure of the city is the most extensive and well-preserved collection of buildings in the style of Art Nouveau. This fact in 1997 was confirmed by independent experts and the old city of the capital of Latvia was included in the list of world heritage sites of UNESCO.