Riga, which was founded as a port town in 1201, was one of the key centres of the Hanseatic League in Eastern Europe from the 13th to the 15th century. The urban fabric of its medieval core reflects the prosperity of those times, though most of the earliest buildings were rebuilt for actual needs or lost by fire or war. In the 17th century, Riga became the largest provincial town of Sweden. In the 19th century, it experienced rapid industrial development and Riga became an important economic centre. The suburbs surrounding the medieval town were laid out first with imposing wooden buildings in neoclassicism and then in Art Nouveau (Jugendstil). It is generally recognized that Riga has the finest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe. The site reflects various architectural styles, which provide valuable insight into the stages of development of Riga as a city. The Historic Centre of Riga is comprised of three different urban landscapes – the relatively well-preserved medieval core, the 19th century semi-circle of boulevards with a green belt on both sides of the City Canal, and the former suburban quarters surrounding the boulevards with dense built-up areas with a rectangular network of streets and wooden architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. Each of these parts has its characteristic relationship of buildings and public outdoor spaces.
The Outstanding Universal Value to be preserved also lies in the spacious panorama of the Historic Centre of Riga with an expressive skyline. The medieval core of Riga is located on the right bank of the River Daugava, allowing a picturesque view on the skyline saturated with numerous church towers from the different perspectives of the left bank. Historic buildings are relatively low, with only church towers creating vertical dominance.
The Historic Centre of Riga is a living illustration of European history. Through centuries, Riga has been the centre of many historic events and a meeting point for European nations, and it has managed to preserve evidence of European influence within its historical development, and borders between the West and the East, as well as the intersection of trading and cultural routes. Riga has always been a modern city keeping up with the current trends in architecture and urban planning at the same time, preserving the city’s integrity in the course of development.
Visual material: Evija Maļkeviča