Rīga, the capital of Latvia,
is an Art Nouveau city. The city centre contains the finest
concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world: more than one third
of all buildings there is of Art Nouveau style. It is an urban ensemble,
inscribed on the World Heritage List. The early 20th century was the
"golden age" for the development of the city. It became one of the major
centres of industry, trade and culture on the eastern coast of the
Baltic Sea. The population approximately doubled over the course of 15
years, surpassing 500,000 on the eve of World War I.
The first Art
Nouveau buildings in Rīga appeared as early as 1899. Already after 1904
Eclecticism disappeared from Rīga's construction activity, being
completely replaced by Art Nouveau.
This new style there was inspired by German, Austrian and Finnish
architecture, but rooted mainly in local cultural traditions. Primarily
local architects were employed, most of them having been graduated from
the Architectural Department (established 1869) of the Rīga
In wide diversity of formal trends of Art Nouveau of Rīga rather
restrained, structural sense of architectural idiom prevail, although
extraordinary lavishly decorated buildings are presented as well. The
most characteristic are so called Perpendicular Art Nouveau and National
Romanticism. The latter reflected the search for the Latvian national
identity in architecture. Art Nouveau in Rīga was highly professional
and versatile phenomena, where all visual arts were melded into one.