Art Nouveau of Riga

Riga is one of the most interesting cities in Europe when it comes to Art Nouveau. There are more examples of the style here than in other cities, and different categories within the style are distinguishable as well. These varieties are traditionally divided into four: the Eclectic, the Perpendicular, the National Romantic, and the Neoclassical Art Nouveau. The Art Nouveau of Riga is more faunal than its European counterparts. Common decorative elements include women’s faces, depictions of mythological figures, and the sun motif. The most famous buildings are those designed by Mikhail Eisenstein on Albert and Elizabeth Streets. Other important architects include Konstantīns PēkšēnsEižens Laube, and Aleksandrs Vanags.

My portfolio contains the most important Art Nouveau buildings in the city centre of Riga. At the end, some photos taken at the Riga Art Nouveau Museum are presented. (I used a lot of information found on the website of that museum.) The buildings are presented chronologically and typologically, but those designed by the above-mentioned architects are sometimes grouped together, creating deviations. I will later add the structures in the Mežaparks area to my portfolio.

Most photos are from June 2015 and May 2017. Two photos are from September 2012 and seven from February 2019.

You will find the locations of all the mentioned buildings on the map below:

 

1. Audēju iela 7

Alfred Aschenkampf & Max Scherwinsky, 1899

This is one of the very first Art Nouveau buildings in Riga. It has rich floral ornaments on the façade, such as an apple tree.

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2. Vīlandes iela 11

Rudolf Heinrich Zirkwitz, 1899-1900

This apartment building was designed to be eclectic but some Art Nouveau elements were included in its façade during the construction work, such as the keyhole-shaped entrance door with sculptures. It has been waiting for renovation for years.

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3. Vīlandes iela 2 / Rūpniecības iela 1

Rudolf Heinrich Zirkwitz, 1903

This early Art Nouveau building has two façades: one overlooking Vīlandes iela and the other opening to Rūpniecības iela. Influences of Vienna Secession are visible on the both façades.

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4. Jauniela iela 25/27

Wilhelm Ludwig Bockslaff, 1903

A part of this building has full-façade rustication, which makes me think of the Finnish National Romantic architecture. The monumental woman’s head, however, makes this façade quintessentially Rigan.

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5. Kalēju iela 23

Paul Mandelstamm, 1903

This is the most colourful Art Nouveau building in the old town of Riga. The sun motif, displayed in the centre of the bay window, appears on many Art Nouveau façades in the city.

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6. Peitav Synagogue

Peitavas iela 6-8
Wilhelm Neumann, 1902-1904

This synagogue is the only one in Riga that was not destroyed during World World II. Several Egyptian motifs can be found in its decoration.

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7. Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela 23

Heinrich Scheel & Friedrich Scheffel, 1901

This eclectic Art Nouveau building boasts with many beautiful details, such as the entrance door.

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8. Smilšu iela 8

Heinrich Scheel & Friedrich Scheffel, 1902

This is one of the most elegant eclectic Art Nouveau buildings in the Old Town of Riga.

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9. Teātra iela 9

Heinrich Scheel & Friedrich Scheffel, 1904

This building houses the Embassy of Italy.

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10. Šķūņu iela 10/12

Heinrich Scheel & Friedrich Scheffel, 1902

This is one of the few Art Nouveau buildings in Riga where the floral ornaments are not dominated by humans, animals, and supernatural beings. It has a soothing effect.

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11. Ģertrūdes iela 10/12

Heinrich Scheel & Friedrich Scheffel, 1902

This building at the corner of the oval square where St. Gertrude Old Church is located has outstanding grimacing masks on the lower part of its façade.

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12. Cat’s House

Meistaru iela 10
Friedrich Scheffel, 1909

The medieval-styled building known for two cat sculptures on its roof also has some elements of Art Nouveau, such as this entrance door.

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13. Elizabetes iela 33

Mikhail Eisenstein, 1901

This heavily decorated building is the first one in which Eisenstein made use of the elements of Art Nouveau.

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14. Elizabetes iela 10b

Mikhail Eisenstein, 1903

This is a typical example of the early Art Nouveau architecture in Riga: the volumes and the structure of the building are eclectic and the façade is still rhythmic, only the ornamentation is new. Two other apartment buildings in the area designed by Eisenstein use the same blue glazed bricks as this façade.

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15. Alberta iela 8

Mikhail Eisenstein, 1903

The buildings on Alberta iela 8, on Elizabetes iela 10b, and on Strēlnieku iela 41 form a subgroup in the œuvre of Eisenstein because of the heavy repetition of dark blue and white.

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16. Elizabetes iela 10a

Mikhail Eisenstein, 1903

This building was designed as eclectic by Konstantīns Pēkšēns, but once the work began, it was Eisenstein who decorated the façade with Art Nouveau elements, such as the kidney-shaped window of the upper floor.

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17. Alberta iela 13

Mikhail Eisenstein, 1904

This is another majestic project by Eisenstein, one of the most prominent buildings on Alberta iela.

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18. Lebedinski Apartment Building

Alberta iela 4
Mikhail Eisenstein, 1904

This is probably the most interesting building designed by Eisenstein. The three heads of Medusa above the cornice of this stretched-out façade are similar to the ones on the Secession Building in Vienna. There are winged dogs and an angel above the entrance.

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19. Mitusov Private School

Strēlnieku iela 4a
Mikhail Eisenstein, 1905

This is the third of the rhythmic and heavily ornamented buildings in blue and white designed by Eisenstein.

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20. Boguslavski Apartment Building

Alberta iela 2a
Mikhail Eisenstein, 1906

This was one of the last eclectic Art Nouveau buildings to be erected in Riga. The bands of glazed red tiles accentuate the verticality of the façade. Behind the windows with round upper frames between the masks there are no rooms but the sky. The sphinxes at the entrance are another reference to the Ancient Egypt so common in Art Nouveau.

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