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Rīga Latvian Society House
The first house of the Rīga Latvian Society (RLS) was built in 1869 according to Jānis Fridrihs Baumanis designs. In 1897, the house was slightly expanded and transformed according to designs of the architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns. In 1908, this house completely burnt down.
The RLS immediately set to work to restore the house. A design competition was organised and architects, such as E. Laube, E. Pole, M. Nukša, A. Malvess, J. Alksnis, A. Vanags and A. Medlingers, submitted their sketches.
In October 1908, Vidzeme Governor approved E. Laube’s sketches, however, in April next year already a new design elaborated by architects E. Laube and E. Pole was approved, and the house was constructed according to their design.
Construction works were completed and the house was consecrated in December 1909. E. Laube and E. Pole were assigned to develop the final design.
Rīga Latvian Society House has five storeys, but on the side of the courtyard – six storeys.
This house was the first building in Rīga built in the Neoclassical style. Polished granite columns and Ionic capitals have been used in portals; classic purity of forms can be seen in the entire composition of the façade with risalits symmetrically disposed on both sides of the main entrance.
General look, rather than sophisticated details or architectural elements of orders in façade decoration, plays the main role in disposition of this building. In general, the architectonic look of the asymmetric construction also reflects separate formal traits of the Viennese Art Nouveau. This especially refers to formation of risalits crowned with cupolas. Decorative panels that are typical elements of the Art Nouveau have been made by Jānis Rozentāls in the complex technique of mosaic arrangements into the coloured cement.
In the central composition allegoric images create the world of ancient legends – ancient Gods Pērkons, Potrimps and Pīkols symbolise cultural objectives, i. e., beauty, strength and wisdom. Whereas panels on risalits reflect means of reaching these objectives: art, science, agriculture and industry. These are “The Sun’s greeting” composition on the left risalit and “Near spring” composition on the right risalit. The main room of the house is a theatre and concert hall located on the upper floors with 450 seats in the stalls and 210 seats in the balcony. Under this hall an assembly room, as well as a number of other rooms for meetings, offices and social needs are situated on the second floor of the building.
During the second half of the 1930s when Kārlis Ulmanis joined the RLS as its honorary member, RLS’s social life became more active involving many representative events. New rooms were required for social meetings and other happenings. Therefore an additional building was constructed in 1935 by pulling down an adjacent four-storey building at 15 Merķeļa Street owned by the Society already since 1902. Designing of the additional building was assigned to the architect E. Laube.
Extension of the building was completed in 1938. Exterior of the additional building corresponds to the architecture of the main building. The first floor houses a restaurant, while the upper floors accommodate several club and banquet halls, of which Ligo Hall on the second floor and Gold Hall on the third floor are the most splendid ones. The classicism forms used in the interior decoration of the house are characteristic of E. Laube's creative signature of that time. Separate baroque or ethnographic elements have been employed as well. E. Laube himself made drawings for all details, i. e., banisters, doors, portals, fire-places, plaster formations, wall and ceiling decorations, lights, furniture. E. Laube also slightly changed the layout of the old building joining it to the new part in one complex. The entrance of the new block has been accentuated by a small column portico and hammered copper door with images of the Palace of Justice, Rīga Cathedral, Freedom Monument and Powder Tower.
The whole interior of the building has been well preserved and is rather authentic. The exceptions are Gold Hall ceiling and Ligo Hall ceiling painting created by E. Treilons that have been partially painted out.