New book documents Art Nouveau architecture in Latvia

A newly-published book outlines Latvia's rich collection of Art Nouveau or Jugendstil buildings, including many notable sites outside central Rīga that are often overlooked.

For the first time in one issue, the whole story of Art Nouveau architecture of Latvia is summarized in "Art Nouveau Architecture in Latvia", written by researcher and architect Janis Krastiņš.

Krastiņš can surely be called one of the most experienced Jugendstil researchers in Latvia. His first book "Art Nouveau Architecture in Riga" came out already in 1980 at a time when appreciation of the artistic style of the early 20th century was at a low point under Soviet occupation.

"When we were studying, we were taught that Art Nouveau was a decline, decadent... Well, I myself lived in Pārdaugava and went to the city center as if to a museum," said Krastiņš. "I walked along the streets, I paid attention to the facades. Being taught that it was a mean and poor architecture was something I found absolutely unconvincing."

Over the years, Krastiņš has continued his researches across all of Latvia and seen Rīga's Art Nouveau architecture included on UNESCO's world heritage list.

"For the most part, this is a result of years of experience. For example, in Liepaja at that time, still in black and white pictures, I photographed all the Art Nouveau buildings, walking from the street to the street in the early 80s. I did the same in Ventspils, drawn by the rather impressive collection of Art Nouveau houses in the very center. Other places in Latvia have been noticed over time, for example, in Cēsis, two buildings in Daugavpils attracted attention. But now you no longer have to walk physically. You can go on a street with Google Maps... But last year I still traveled more than 2,000 kilometers," the researcher told Latvian Radio.

The book contains Art Nouveau pearls in places like Pelci, Kandava, Rauna, Vijciems, Rūjiena and others. Tracing information about architects has often been a kind of detective work, since archival buildings projects are not preserved in many places.

"Determining the attribution of many buildings was a kind of criminal investigation, by collecting together the known facts, comparing and testing them, in order to finally be able to say with a high degree of certainty what kind of masters these buildings were designed by," the author acknowledged.

The book by Jānis Krastins "Art Nouveau Architecture in Latvia" has been published by the Madris Publishing House with texts and building descriptions in both Latvian and English.

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