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Pārdaugava wooden architecture
Only about a 40 minute walk from the centre of Riga, arriving at the left bank of the Daugava River – in Pārdaugava – it seems that you have arrived into a different place. No trace of urban crowds, of modern architecture, but, on the contrary, it feels like having arrived in the 19th century.
This is because of the unique wooden architecture; it can already be seen when driving from the airport to the city centre along Kalnciema Street. 19th century wooden buildings are seen on both sides of it, and no equivalent to this ensemble of classicism in wooden architecture can be found anywhere in Europe! Two-storey and one-storey wooden buildings, decorated with exquisite details - on Kalnciema Street alone 23 such wooden buildings have been preserved.
- unlike in the rest of Europe where in the majority of cities blocks of wooden houses were demolished in the 1970s, giving place to more modern, but anonymous constructions from concrete, glass and iron.
The ensemble of Kalnciema Street buildings is only a part of the extraordinary charm of Pārdaugava. This whole part of Riga is filled with cobbled or even plain unpaved streets and bursting with wooden architecture. Almost every building is breathtaking because of the surprising fact that something of this kind has been still preserved in a 21st century metropolis.
The history of Pārdaugava’s wooden constructions began with Āgenskalns village, which had already started developing on the left bank of the Daugava in the 17th century. Āgenskalns was a typical suburb of Riga with wooden buildings, which in case of war could be burnt down, thus hampering the enemy’s progress towards the fortified walls of the city. And Āgenskalns was destroyed twice – first during the Nordic War, and later in 1812 when Napoleon’s troops were approaching Riga and all suburbs of Riga were burnt down due to of strategic considerations. In the end, Napoleon did not attack Riga and Āgenskalns returned to life. Part of it can be still enjoyed today because, for example, the oldest buildings of Pārdaugava, which date back to the 18th - 19th centuries, are still preserved in between Nometņu, Slokas, Eduarda Smiļģa and Talsu Streets, with the whole network of streets of the time. This unusual place is the pearl of Pārdaugava’s wooden architecture, a visit to it will bring an unforgettable aesthetic pleasure.
The most outstanding examples of the wooden architecture of Pārdaugava are definitely the ensemble of buildings at Kalnciema Street 37. It is interesting that as late as in the mid-19th century, a pine forest was situated there, but a few years later these wooden buildings were constructed; they recently underwent large-scale reconstruction and now house various offices and studios, and hold fascinating seminars and creative workshops during which the participants can make presents with their own hands. One of the most popular local chefs, the attractive TV personality Mārtiņš Sirmais, has opened a cosy Restaurant “Māja” here.
The building at Kalnciema Street 28/30 will definitely draw the visitors’ attention. It is Hartmanis manor house, the ensemble consists of a one-storey residential house with a gambrel and mantel chimney. The residential house at 7 Daugavgrīvas Street is also interesting, as well as the very old wooden buildings in Hermaņa, Ed. Smiļģa, Amālijas, Dobeles, Medus and Nometņu Streets. Buses No. 22 and 53 go to Kalnciema Street, the stop to get off is “Melnsila iela:”, but if you want to enjoy the charm of Āgenskalna wooden buildings, take tram No. 4 and get off at the stop “Smiļģa iela”.