The Great Guild is in a catastrophic condition, and 5 million euros are required to repair it – this the concern of the Latvian National Symphony orchestra, the current inhabitants of the 14th century cultural-historical monument. The last major repairs were carried out in 1963.
According to Aigars Kalniņš, the Technical Director of LNSO, one of the newest troubles is ruptured pipes in the basement of the building.
“And the condition of the heating units is also terrible – the radiators and the pipes can rupture at any moment. There's a problem wherever we look,” said Kalniņš.
Kalniņš believes that a major reconstruction is needed to preserve the building.
“[There are] walls that have been thoroughly damaged, and windows and doors, of course, are in no better condition,” Kalniņš pointed out.
In another room, a window pane had recently fallen out onto the street below.
“It's lucky that no passer-by was harmed, but a car was. This is, again, an indicator of the constant troubles we face on a daily basis. The window, the pipes, other things,” said Kalniņš.
Latvian Television has reported numerous times on the narrowness, inadequacy, and airlessness of the rooms of many musicians, who have yet to witness any changes being made to their facilities.
“I believe that we shouldn't wait until something catches fire or someone becomes ill simply because of a lack of oxygen on the stage – that's just tragicomic, or rather plain tragic. This just doesn't happen in any civilized Western country,” stressed Andris Poga, the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of LNSO.
“We often have ambulance coming in because people get overheated and can't breathe. Of course, it is no secret that elderly people make up the majority of the audience,” said Kalniņš.
“We have an urgent need of funding for the technical and capital repairs of the Great Guild, and it is quite possible that this money could be taken from the European Structural Fund's 23 million, which are earmarked for the new concert hall […] Under the “if, if” conditions, we very much hope that such a scenario will come true,” explains Indra Lūkin, the Director of LNSO.
“We are stressing that it is an urgent need, as you can never know with such an old building with old repair work, at which moment it may happen that we'll no longer be able to use this building,” warned Lūkina.
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture believes that it would be possible to divert funds the European funds reserved for the concert hall to the reconstruction of the Great Guild.
“We confirm that the Great Guild needs urgent technical repairs,” said the State Secretary for the Ministry of Culture Dace Vilsone. “Yes, theoretically, one of the possible sources of funding could be this program, which is aimed at taking care of cultural heritage, and, if it gains support from the government, then we could consider such a solution.”
The owners of the property – State Real Estate (VNĪ) – believe that the concerns are exaggerated.
“The contract stipulates that the user of the building maintains the building. It should be mentioned, however, that every year an investment is made into the maintenance of the building in cooperation with the user of the building and the Ministry of Culture,” said Dace Plotniece, the Head of the Development and Expert Division of VNI. “We'd like to say that the building is not in a catastrophic condition. It demands, of course, large investments, but in 2015 we received an evaluation from the State Construction Control Bureau which said that [the building] meets the essential safety requirements, which means that it poses no danger to the concert audiences.”
VNĪ are currently carrying out a technical inspection of the building. They hope to receive an evaluation by the end of the summer.