Monday, 11 July 2016

Riga art nouveau: The Old Town

The Cats' House

We had a great walk around the Quiet Centre recently to see the art nouveau buildings there. This walk was intended to see the various art nouveau buildings scattered around the Old Town. Detailed information on individual buildings is taken from a useful book found in Riga bookstores in several languages: Riga Art nouveau. I have headed this post with the best known, The Cats' House, named for the two cat sculptures on the roof.

We started in Andeju iela (street) and came first to number 7, apparently the oldest art nouveau building in the city ( by A. Aschenkampf, M. Scherwinsky, 1899). We loved the stylised trees and flower motifs under the window sills. It would doubtless look better if the façade was picked out in more contrasting colours.

Number 9 next door (K. Pēkšēns, 1900) was one of those buildings where you doubt that that the art nouveau label is really appropriate. The sun motif under the cornice is very lovely, but the presence if pilasters and pediments suggests that it is really a sort of Baroque revival.

We turned left in Kaleju iela and saw, at number 23, a proper art nouveau gem.  It dates from 1903 and the architect was P Mandelstamm.

The floral motifs over the windows are pure (by which I suppose I mean western European) art nouveau. Here is a closer look.

The extraordinary vertical motifs (stylised sunflowers?) are also a delight. The canopy over the doorway is the only let down, seeming coarse by comparison. A later addition? 

Further along Keleju number 6 is in a poor state of repair but the flower panels over the windows are lovely.

Now we turned left into Kalku iela to see another early example at number (now a branch of TGI Friday).

Turning into Skunu iela we spotted this interesting building on the right (the address is 1 Laipu iela). It has two dates on the pediment (1616 and 1903, so presumably the top storey was added in art nouveau style in 1903.

Further along Skunu at number 10/12 was this extraordinary sight: a building of 1902 covered in flower motifs.

We then turned right into Zirgu iela to reach Liv Square where went straight ahead to reach The Cats' House (1909, architect F Scheffel). Here is the impressive main doorway.

There is another art nouveau house next to it around the right hand side in the continuation of Zirgu iela.

Now into Smilsu iela, where number 8 (H. Scheel, F. Scheffel, 1902) has many Baroque revival qualities, including pilasters with elaborate capitals. However, there are some lovely decorative details …

 … and the doorway is exquisite.

The door happened to be open so I sneaked a look inside. The passageway was delightfully decorated in brown, cream and green.

Conditions: mostly mild and grey.

Distance: a a couple of miles.

Rating: four stars. A match for the more famous Quiet Centre.

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