Architecture of Wooden Buildings
Architecture of wooden buildings plays a significant role in the urban environment. In Riga, unlike many other countries of Europe, the wooden architecture continued developing almost until World War II. In turn, after the war Latvia did not encounter the wave of Modernism, which passed over the Western Europe in the 60s and 70s, largely because of the deficiency in housing caused by the Soviet system of management. As time progressed, the wooden architecture of Riga accumulated certain load of social and cultural environment – up till now more prosperous people have tried to avoid of wooden buildings. However, lately, there has been a rise of fans of wooden architecture in Riga, who are trying to restore the ancient and most beautiful buildings.
In Riga individual wooden buildings from the middle of the 18th century (Daugavgrīvas Street 28, residential building of the Šepmuižiņa Manor, Borherts Manor’s residential building) as well as Kleistu, Hartmaņa, Nordeķu and Depkina estates have been preserved.
The buildings of the later period are better preserved, for example, Classicism buildings in Daugavgrīvas Street 67, residential building of the Blok Estate and its construction units, built after burning of suburban districts in 1812. Mainly they are one or two storey buildings, constructed following example facades. Based on the local traditions of construction, this style has developed in its own peculiar way. Following the façade examples, part of wooden buildings were constructed in the city center, in the former Maskavas District, in Sarkandaugava and in Ķīpsala. In the latter there have been also several dwellings of fishermen and ferrymen preserved (first part of the 19th century), which are also monuments to the folk-architecture. Growth in construction of wooden buildings took place at the second part of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century when Eclecticism and Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) prevailed. Details in dimensions and facades were typical for this time and are found around the regularly arranged windows, in gables and cornices.
Many of the Latvian architects also started their practices at this time; their works together with accomplishments by architects of other nationalities in Riga have defined the visual image of the city. From the constructions of that time the following buildings should be mentioned: in Balasta dambis 38/40 (1907, J. Alksnis), in O. Vācieša Street 5 (1872, O. Bars), in Brīvības Street 100 (in the courtyard, 1899, K. Felsko), in Matrožu Street 4/6 (A. Vanags). Frequently amazing staircase and apartment interiors have been preserved in the wooden buildings. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, all wooden buildings are in a very poor technical condition. Nevertheless, the wooden construction of Riga is a unique phenomenon on the European scale. Preservation of wooden buildings as a unified ensemble, without tearing particular constructions out of environmental context, is a topical issue.