We associate Art Nouveau with Paris, with Victor Horta's architecture in Brussels, Gaudí's Modernism in Barcelona or Klimt's paintings in Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century. And of course they are very timely associations, however there is a very surprising fact and that is that in none of these cities are there as many Art Nouveau buildings as in Riga, the capital ofLatvia seaside B altic.
First Art Nouveau Building in Riga
In total, more than 750 modernist buildings have been counted and cataloged in the Latvian capital, which represents approximately one third of the extension of its historic heart, which is considered World Heritagefor the extraordinary fusion between medieval architecture and that of Art Nouveau.
A whole construction phenomenon that took place between the end of the 19th century and the year 1914, when the country entered the First World War, thus cutting off its development, however, the Art Nouveau related to the moment of economic splendor in which it took place served to be a benchmark of the Latvian nationalist spirit, first faced with the Russia of the tsars and then with the Soviet Union.
During those years the appearance of the city was to be completely transformed, and the first of the buildings to bebuilt was a work of 1899 conceived by the architect Alfred Aschenkampff. This was the first architect of German origin, and there were others of that nationality working in Riga, as well as Finns or Austrians, but the truth is that the vast majority of constructions that were carried out in the city were the work of local and Russian architects..
They were buildings that were built throughout the city, including its oldest area, but especially in the so-called diplomatic area. There are several streets full of these constructions, such as Calle Alberto and Calle de Elizabetes, where some of the most distinguished architects of the time worked, such as Mikhail Eisenstein, Konstantinis Peksens or Hermanis Hilbigs.
Building designed by Mikhail Eisenstein
Furthermore, during a walk through these streets you can see the three currents that developed in just 15 years of the explosion of Art Nouveau in Latvia.
The first was the Decorative style, tremendously ornate in its decoration with many plant motifs, geometric shapes, masks and especially women.
From 1906 the Rationalist or Perpendicular current would arrive, more typical of Latvian art, and in which emphasis was placed on highlighting the verticality of the facades through windows, reliefs and other elements that even come out of the volume of the facade.
And during the last few years the so-called Romantic Nationalist current has gained more strength,where elements of local architecture are incorporated, such as wood, very sloping roofs or ornaments related to national folklore.