If you ever come to the capital of Latvia, don’t forget to look up! Riga has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. That style was popular from around 1900 to 1914, a period when the city’s population almost doubled and hundreds of apartment buildings were built—each vying to look modern and unique. We rented a little apartment in one of those buildings. Although our room didn’t have any period touches, the nearby Art Nouveau Museum showed us a beautifully restored example of a bourgeois family’s apartment from the early 1900s.
Art Nouveau architecture took various forms in Riga: Eclectic (masses of ornate decoration, like an over-the-top wedding cake), Perpendicular (strong vertical lines), and National Romantic (muted earth tones, asymmetry, and decoration based on folk art). Wandering the streets with her camera, Melissa took almost 300 photos of the fabulous buildings. We’ve whittled that down to 71 to give you a taste of the rich variety of Art Nouveau design in Riga.
The type of Art Nouveau known as National Romanticism featured subdued colors, natural materials, and folk motifs
This building from 1900 shows the kind of eclectic Medieval and Renaissance Revival style that Art Nouveau developed from
The apartment we rented in Riga was in this 1904 Art Nouveau building
Our building is called the Atlas House because of this carving on the top
Art Nouveau designers loved swirling lines and floral motifs
The Perpendicular style of Art Nouveau features strong vertical lines and decorations to break up the horizontal rows of windows
A rare example of Art Nouveau touches in an otherwise traditional Baltic-style wooden house
This building designed by architect Mikhail Eisenstein (father of filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein) may be the most famous Art Nouveau building in Riga
Eisenstein's theory seemed to be "the more decoration, the better"
Garden room in the Art Nouveau Museum, an apartment restored to its 1910s glory
Most of the furniture and decorative objects in the museum were made in Riga
The fabulous stairway of the building housing the Art Nouveau Museum
This buildiing is home to the Art Nouveau Museum
We love the asymmetry of this building
This window detail celebrates the designer and the builder
Another building by Mikhail Eisenstein, who obviously loved blue brick and ornate white trim
This building has all kinds of shapes, plus lions on top!