Not just cobblestone streets in the setting Latvian sun, but also modern roads with a segregated bike path. How Scandinavian; how progressive.
Riga not only boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site, it was also the European Capital of Culture in 2014. And it is chokeful of architectural goodies within a small radius.
Two of the Three Brothers on M. Pils iela – from Riga’s medieval period.
The House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads (giggle).
Ah, architecture. Architecture as visible archaeology. Architecture as anthropology. Architectonic forms as images, symbols, metaphors; as diagnostics of the human condition; as mere art and performance (as if); as regulators and instigators of human behaviour and societal interaction.
Livonia (no, not the Joseph Tan, Daniel Sassoon et al band from Singapore) – the historical area now delineated as Estonia and Northern Latvia, participation in the Hanseatic League, have all left their imprint in extant buildings.
Having more art nouveau than any other European city suggests a somewhat glamorous recent past.
But these gated inward-looking apartments with gloomy courtyards, L assures me, are far more common. A legacy, she thinks, of the Soviet era.
Since independence from the latest imperialistic power to have designs on them, many young people have taken advantage of the education benefits of being in the EU and have left for other EU states. Few, if any, have returned. So the streets are uncrowded and quiet.
Yet across the river, there is a sign of a new age of architecture: the National Library of Latvia, designed by Gunārs Birkerts. It looks like a book left open on its face; like the reader merely paused to make himself a cup of tea. Perhaps this period is merely a setting down of a book… Meanwhile, there is work to be done amongst those who have stayed.