Riga is well known for its Architecture. With Art Nouveau structures making up the heart of the city and modern skyscrapers filling the skyline, it is no wonder that people flock here in search of inspiration.
Riga is truly one of the most spectacular cities for architecture in Europe. Partly due to its mixed and layered history, leaving many styles and influences from across the European continent as well as the fact that much of the city center survived the First and Second World War, with little damage.
Riga’s Wooden architecture
Riga has many examples of fine wooden architecture. From areas such as the Moscow District to Kipsala you will find great and often exquisite examples of a dying construction technique all across Riga. Some examples go back to 1700s but for the most part, the structures date from the late 19th century and early 20th century. This is partly due to a defensive programme that promoted the burning of all buildings outside of the city wall in the case of an attack. Subsequently much of the city in 1812 was leveled after a mistaken sighting of Napoleon’s men, led the city to burn much of its housing!
Today wooden houses suffer from neglect, vandalism and insurance claims, with burning a property down to achieve an open plot and returns from insurance being common.
Art Nouveau (Jugendstil)
Riga is famous for its Art Nouveau and it is clear to see why. With experts claiming between 600 – 700 buildings in the style across the city. The reason that you will find different figures as to how many buildings there are is down to the fact that many historians disagree on what constitutes as Art Nouveau. You can make up your own mind!
National Romantic, Eclectic and Perpendicular (often referred to as Riga Perpendicular) Art Nouveau can be found in a bundance, from flamboyent styles all the way to down to earth, modest dwellings.
Do not be fooled when people say visit the Art Nouveau District, there is no such place! The fact is that Art Nouveau can be found all across the city and be sure if you can to find as much as possible!
Functionalism and Art Deco in Riga
The Central Market in Riga is a great example of Art Deco style in its facade work and it is one of the largest examples of comerical buildings with Art Deco elements in Europe. Throughout Riga you will fins many buildings built in the 20’s and 30’s that have many features of Art Deco but usually fall into the category of ‘Functionalism’.
Some similarities with architectural movements taking place in Germany in the 1930’s are also visible in Riga. Take the Supreme Court House as a good example. Dig deep and try to spot these large monumental buildings, often found around Elizabeth Street.
Soviet Architecture in Riga
Now it does not matter whether or not you find Soviet architecture ugly. It is simply a fact that there is lots of it around the world. Many people think of lifeless block houses but in fact there are many great buildings, structures and monuments to be found in Riga.
Just take the Riga Television Tower. This huge monument to engineering stands over 360 meters in height and is the tallest tower in the EU and the 3rd tallest on the European continent. The Science Academy and the Victory Monument or even head up Brivibas Street towards the Dailes Theater for a great Soviet masterpieces.