Historic Centre of Riga

Historic Centre of Riga

Riga was a major centre of the Hanseatic League, deriving its prosperity in the 13th–15th centuries from the trade with central and eastern Europe. The urban fabric of its medieval centre reflects this prosperity, though most of the earliest buildings were destroyed by fire or war. Riga became an important economic centre in the 19th century, when the suburbs surrounding the medieval town were laid out, first with imposing wooden buildings in neoclassical style and then in Jugendstil . It is generally recognized that Riga has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe.

Centre historique de Riga

Riga était un grand centre de la Ligue hanséatique qui a prospéré grâce au commerce avec l'Europe centrale et de l'Est aux XIIIe -XVe siècles. Le tissu urbain de son centre médiéval reflète cette prospérité, bien que la plupart de ses bâtiments les plus anciens aient été détruits par l'incendie et la guerre. Au XIXe siècle, elle est devenue un important centre économique et l'on a construit les faubourgs de la ville médiévale, tout d'abord en imposant une architecture en bois de style classique, puis Jugendstil. De l'avis général, c'est à Riga que l'on trouve la plus belle concentration de bâtiments Art nouveau d'Europe.

الوسط التاريخي في ريغا

كانت ريغا مركزًا كبيرًا للجامعة التحالفيّة التي ازدهرت بفضل التجارة مع أوروبا الوسطى والشرق منذ القرن الثالث عشر وحتى القرن الخامس عشر. ويعكس النسيج الحضري لوسطها الذي يعود إلى القرون الوسطى، هذا الازدهار مع أنّ معظم أبنيتها القديمة قد دُمرت بسبب الحريق والحرب. وفي القرن التاسع عشر، أصبحت هذه المدينة مركزًا اقتصاديًّا مهمًّا وقد بُنيت ضواحي المدينة التي تعود إلى القرون الوسطى، أولاً بفرض هندسةٍ خشبيّةٍ تتميّز بالأسلوب كلاسيكي، ثم باستعمال اليوغندستيل. وبحسب الرأي العام، نجد في ريغا أجمل تجمّع للأبنية التي تعتمد على الفن الأوروبي الجديد.

source: UNESCO/ERI

里加历史中心

里加是汉萨同盟的一个主要中心,它同中欧和东欧的贸易在13世纪至15世纪一度非常繁荣。尽管大部分的早期建筑受到火灾和战争的破坏,但是中世纪中期的城市建筑仍然反映了这种繁荣。19世纪里加成为重要的经济中心,中世纪城镇的市郊已经建成,风格从开始的古典木制建筑转入“新艺术”风格。里加被公认为欧洲最精美的“新艺术”建筑风格的中心。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Исторический центр Риги

Центральной и Восточной Европы. Городская застройка ее средневекового центра отражает это процветание, несмотря на то, что большая часть старейших зданий была утрачена в результате пожаров и войн. В XIX в., когда Рига стала важным экономическим центром, вокруг средневекового ядра города возникли предместья, сначала с выразительными деревянными зданиями в стиле классицизма, затем – в стиле модерн (югендстиль или арт-нуво). Общепризнанно, что Рига обладает собранием самых прекрасных зданий в стиле модерн в Европе.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Centro histórico de Riga

Centro importante de la Liga Hanseática, la ciudad de Riga prosperó entre los siglos XIII y XV gracias al comercio con Europa Central y Oriental. El tejido urbano de su centro medieval muestra todavía esa prosperidad, aunque la mayoría de sus edificios más antiguos fueron destruidos por incendios y guerras. Riga volvió a ser un importante centro económico en el siglo XIX, época en la que se hizo el trazado de los suburbios situados en torno la ciudad medieval. Al principio se impuso la construcción en madera y estilo neoclásico para los nuevos edificios, pero luego fue predominando el “Jugendstil” o “Art Nouveau”. Según una opinión muy extendida, Riga posee hoy en día el más hermoso conjunto de edificios de “Art Nouveau” de toda Europa.

source: UNESCO/ERI

リガ歴史地区

source: NFUAJ

Historisch centrum van Riga

Riga was een belangrijk centrum van het Hanze-verbond. Het ontleende zijn welvaart aan handel met Midden en Oost-Europa van de 13e tot de 15e eeuw. Het stedelijke karakter van het middeleeuwse centrum weerspiegelt deze welvaart, hoewel de meeste van de vroegste gebouwen werden verwoest door brand of oorlog. Riga werd in de 19e eeuw een belangrijk economisch centrum, toen de voorsteden rond de middeleeuwse stad werden aangelegd. Eerst met indrukwekkende houten gebouwen in neoklassieke stijl en vervolgens in 'Jugendstil'. Het wordt algemeen erkend dat Riga de mooiste collectie Art Nouveau gebouwen van heel Europa heeft.

Source: unesco.nl

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Justification for Inscription

The Committee decided to inscribe this property on the basis of criteria (i) and (ii), considering that the historic centre of Riga, while retaining its medieval and later urban fabric relatively intact, is of outstanding universal value by virtue of the quality and the quantity of its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture, which is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and its 19th century architecture in wood.

Long Description

The Historic Centre of Riga, while retaining its medieval and later urban fabric relatively intact, is of outstanding universal value by virtue of the quality and the quantity of its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture, unparalleled anywhere in the world, and its 19th-century architecture in wood. It has exerted a considerable influence within the Baltic cultural area on subsequent developments in architecture.

Archaeological excavations in the Old Town have shown that there were settlements of the local tribes, the Livs and the Cours, along with some foreign trading posts, on the peninsula formed by the confluence of the Ridzene and Daugava rivers by the late 11th century, and the place became a crossroads for trade between east and west. Livonia was Christianized in 1184 by the German monk Meinhard, but early chronicles attribute the establishment of the city to Bishop Albert in 1201. In 1221 the inhabitants successfully rebelled against German domination. A town council was elected by the body of the citizenry to become its legislative and executive body. The independent city prospered, becoming the third-largest mercantile centre on the Baltic (after Lübeck and Gdansk), and in 1282 it formed an alliance with Lübeck and Visby to become a member of the Hanseatic League.

By the 15th century Riga was a typical large Hanseatic town, with winding streets and densely packed dwelling houses, a large market square in the centre on which the town hall was situated and strong fortifications. The mid-16th century saw two strong forces acting on Riga. It embraced the Reformation and the teachings of Martin Luther and successfully resisted the Counter-Reformation in the 1530s and 1540s. However, it was unable to stand up to the forces of Ivan the Terrible in 1559. Russian occupation was followed by Polish domination, and Riga stood between Poland and the ambitions of Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden. In 1621 Riga became part of the enlarged Swedish Kingdom, and experienced many years of war during the struggles between Sweden and Russia. In 1710, following the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden at the battle of Poltava, Riga fell to the Russian army after a siege of nine months, to remain part of the Tsarist Russian Empire until the creation of the first Republic of Latvia in 1918.

The area of the Historic Centre of Riga consists of three elements: the medieval Old City, the 19th century semi-circle of boulevards, and the 18th and 19th century former suburban quarters lying outside the boulevards, with a chequerboard layout.

Few medieval houses are still intact; of these one of the most interesting is the House of the Three Brothers, an impeccably restored group from the 15th century. The late 17th-century Reutem's House and Dammnstem's House are more monumental buildings, notable for their interior decorations and fittings as well as their impressive facades. The town walls were demolished in the mid-19th century, but one section has been reconstructed, complete with bastion.

The boulevards have many important 19th- and early 20th-century public buildings fronting on to them, including the National Theatre and the Museum of Latvian Art. The creation of the boulevards coincided with the reign of eclecticism in Europe, and this movement is abundantly represented. The suburbs that expanded and developed so rapidly from the mid-19th century onwards are notable for both the surviving wooden buildings in the classical Russian style and the extraordinary wealth of buildings that arose after the removal of the fortifications and the implementation of the new city plan, and in particular in the closing decade of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century. Eclecticism allowed architects to produce many fights of fancy, well illustrated by the 'House of the Cat' on Meistaru Street.

However, it was Art Nouveau (Jugendstil), which reached Riga via Finland at the very end of the 19th century, that provided the suburban area with its most noteworthy feature. There are countless examples, perhaps the most outstanding of which are the works of Mikhail Eisenstein in Alberta Street and Elizabeth Street. National Romanticism evolved into Jugendstil in Latvia, again on the Finnish model. This movement is represented by the work of architects such as E. Laube and A. Vanags, with some striking examples of their work in Alberta Street and Brivibas Street.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

Archaeological excavations in the Old Town have shown that there were settlements of the local tribes, the Livs and the Cours, along with some foreign trading posts, on the peninsula formed by the confluence of the Ridzene and Daugava rivers by the late 11th century, and the place became a cross-roads for trade between east and west. Livonia was christianized in 1184 by the German monk Meinhard, but early chronicles attribute the establishment of the city to Bishop Albert in 1201. However, almost nothing is known about the layout of this first city. Its simple wooden buildings were concentrated on the tip of the peninsula around the harbour and the streets were made of logs. There appears to have been no defensive enclosure wall.

German settlers brought stone building techniques with them, and two castles were built, one for the Bishop and the other for the knights of the Teutonic Order, who accompanied Albert on his mission to Livonia. A stone defensive wall was constructed in 1210, to enclose all the existing settlements, including the foreign trading posts. Vigorous opposition from the merchants forced the Bishop to accept the Visby Law, which assigned important rights to citizens.

However, strife between the Bishop and the Order on the one hand and the merchants on the other persisted, and in 1221 the inhabitants successfully rebelled against German domination. A town council was elected by the body of the citizenry to become its legislative and executive body. The independent city prospered, becoming the third largest mercantile centre on the Baltic (after Liibeck and Gdansk), and in 1282 it formed an alliance with Liibeck and Visby to become a member of the Hanseatic League. Its wealth increased as Riga assumed the role of the principal port handling Russian furs, wax, timber, tar, potash, tallow, and leather going westwards and cloth. salt, herrings, wine, beer, and spices moving into the Russian heartland.

The 13th and the early 14th centuries saw Riga prow in size to some 28ha. Work began on the three main churches that survive to the present day and on a number of imposing public and commercial buildings. Regulations promulgated fist in 1293 prohibited the use of wood for construction and north German stone techniques were brought in. By the 15th century Riga was a typical large Hanseatic town, with winding streets and densely packed dwelling houses, a large market square in the centre on which the town hall was situated, and strong fortifications (which were to be radically reconstructed from 1537 onwards to counter the new weapon, artillery). By the end of the 16th century the population had risen to over ten thousand.

The mid-16th century saw two strong forces acting on Riga. It embraced the Reformation and the teachings of Martin Luther and successfully resisted the Counter Reformation in the 1530s and 1540s. However, it was unable to stand up to the forces of Ivan the Terrible in 1559. Russian occupation was followed by Polish domination, and Riga stood between Poland and the ambitions of Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden. In 1621 Riga became part of the enlarged Swedish kingdom, and experienced many years of war during the struggles between Sweden and Russia. In 1710, following the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden at the battle of Poltava, Riga fell to the Russian army after a siege of nine months, to remain part of the Tsarist Russian Empire until the creation of the first Republic of Latvia in 1918.

Both Sweden and Russia made Riga the administrative capital of the Baltic countries. During the Russian period, the administrative centre moved from the Old City to the former castle of the Teutonic Knights outside the walls. There was also considerable suburban expansion, in 1769 and again in 1815, on a checkerboard layout. Throughout this period Riga experienced changes in its building styles. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries the emphasis was on Classicism, expressed in the form of single-storey wooden buildings, especially in the new suburbs but also replacing earlier buildings in the Old City.

The advent of Russian rule in the mid-18th century resulted in a short period of economic stagnation, but by the end of the century booming foreign trade led to considerable industrial development. The population rose from over 60,000 in 1857 to over 300,000 forty years later. Riga was the fifth largest city in the Russian Empire (after Moscow, St Petersburg, Kiev, and Warsaw) and its largest port, whilst its factories were responsible for 5.7% of the gross industrial production of the Empire.

This new prosperity led to a radical new approach to the city's urban structure. The fortifications were levelled in 1857 and a new plan for the reconstruction of the city was implemented in 1857-63. As a result, the whole spatial and structural design of the city changed. The space occupied by the walls was replaced by a green belt of gardens, and outside these a new semi-circular sweep of broad boulevards was laid out. The new city that developed beyond these boulevards was endowed with many public buildings - theatres, schools, the university, the central post office, and the central railway station.

The bourgeoisie of Riga used their wealth to build imposing private residences and apartment blocks in the expanding suburbs, where an earlier ordinance forbidding the use of stone for building was rescinded. Latvian and Russian architects adopted the European movements enthusiastically, and in particular Art Nouveau, which came from Finland. This developed its own characteristics in Riga, where a national style was created by graduates of the Riga Polytechnic.

During the two decades of the first Latvian Republic it was Functionalism that dominated the architecture of Riga, adding to its stylistic diversity. The project for modernizing the medieval Old City, as part of which a number of blocks were completely rebuilt and several streets widened, came to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of World War Il. During that conflict the Old City suffered grievously from bombardment, and only the most outstanding monuments, such as St Peter's Church and some medieval houses, were restored.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation