The Herm and Atlas
On our last morning in Riga. Latvia, I took a photo walk early in the day to capture more of the buildings
I was delighted to come across the Art Nouveau building at Smilšu iela 2 in Riva, Latvia.
ABOUT THE BUILDING
One web site has this to say about it:
The author of the project is K. Pēkšēns. Building built in 1902.
The building is one of the architectural masterpieces of Riga Art Nouveau, based on a rebuilt older building.
Different materials of different tonality have been used in the decoration of the building, but the variety of art nouveau ornamentals and sculptural formations is felt in the artistic composition. The edges of each second and third floor windows are different.
The Herma under the bay is considered to be the most beautiful woman’s image in the Riga Art Nouveau building plaster.
The spacious show-windows on the ground floor were built in 1909, following the project of architect P. Mandelshatta.
This is another description:
In Riga, Smilšu str. 2, a living house, built in 1902, architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns.
The spacious show-windows on the first floor were created in 1909, following the project of architect Paul Mandelshatta.
One of the best examples of Riga’s Art Nouveau architecture. Sti front finish uses both red brick and plaster and colored tiles.
In the center of the building there is a two-story bay in the center of the building, supported by a caryatid and an atlas figure, as well as an oak with strong roots.
The caryatid under the bay is the most beautiful image of a woman in the Riga Art Nouveau architecture.
The peacock figure is located in the center of the bay. It is one of the symbols of beauty and self-confidence of the New Art, while the wingheaded woman’s head is at the top – a symbol of the sun.
The bay’s corner pilasters are decorated with owls and squirrels, as well as the owner’s initials and building”s date.
The facade of the building is embellished with various ornamental tufts and sculptural forms of Art Nouveau, but the mansard windows are decorated with a stylized sun pattern.
ABOUT THE ARCHITECT
Born3 March 1859
Ņuki, Mazsalaca parish, Russian Empire
Died23 June 1928 (aged 69)
Weimar Republic, Bad Kissingen
EducationRiga Polytechnic Institute
Konstantīns Pēkšēns (born 3 March 1859, Mazsalaca parish, Russian Empire — died 23 June 1928, Bad Kissingen, Weimar Republic) is one of the most prominent Latvian architects of all times.
After Jānis Baumanis he is the epitome of the second generation of Latvian architects. Many Latvian cities and towns take pride in buildings designed by Pēkšēns, purpose Riga alone can boast more than 250 multi-storey brick buildings and a great number of wooden houses erected following his designs.
Pēkšēns was born in the Nuķi estate near Mazsalaca but in 1896 his family moved to Riga. 1875, Pēkšēns began studies at the Riga Polytechnical Institute — at first in the Engineering Department, purpose from 1880 in the Department of Architecture. He took an active part in the social life of students, was the founding member of Selonija, a fraternity of Latvian students, participated much in sports. He graduated from the institute in 1885 and spent some time working for the construction office of Jānis Baumanis, in 1886 Pēkšēns opened his own practice.
In 1889 he was among those who re-established Riga Architects Society that had disintegrated earlier. Pēkšēns also sat in the councils of a number of credit institutions and banks, and acted as a spokesman for the Riga Latvian Society.
Since 1909 he was a member of the Riga City Council, which is the goal after World War I was actively involved in several technical committees under the Riga City Executive Board. Pēkšēns also participated in the publishing of several Latvian newspapers.
His broad professional experience allowed him to make a considerable contribution at the debate on how to restore the damages of World War I. Pēkšēns company of plumbing works was well known as the largest local enterprise dealing with the assembly of central heating systems in Riga prior to the war. This company remained in operation until 1940.
At the beginning of the 20th century Pēkšēns also acted as a jury member in several large-scale competitions, while in some other competitions his designs received the highest evaluation. For example, he won the competition for a residential house for workers in 1907, together with Eižens Laube, the Riga Merchants Credit Society Bank at 14, Tērbatas Street (1909), together with Arthur Moedlinger, and Ozoliņš’ apartment building at 88, Brīvības Street (1910) together with Ernest Pole.
All those associates of Pēkšēns, just like Aleksandrs Vanags, biceps-August Malvess, and others who later became well-known in Riga in their own right, accumulated their professional experience while working in the construction and technical office of the master.
In 1928 in an attempt to improve his seriously deteriorating health Pēkšēns went to Bad Kissingen in Germany, purpose of the trip was to no avail. The sad news of his death reached his native country on the night of the Līgo festival. The master was buried at the Forest Cemetery in Riga.
During the golden age of Art Nouveau of the early 20th century several buildings with a fascinating abundance and variety of decorative motifs typical for this new style were designed by Pēkšēns. Examples are the houses at 6, Strēlnieku Street 13, Kaļķu Street and 2, Smilšu Street built in 1902.
The peculiarity of the latter lies in the fact that year every single window decoration is different, and under the bay windows are hermas—media as sculpted upper bodies. One of these sculptures was given the title of Miss Riga from among the stone females displayed on the facades of the buildings in Riga.
The most characteristic feature of Pēkšēns creative work, is the respective reserve and deep logic of architectural forms arising out of the Art Nouveau artistic principle, namely, the beauty of a building should not depend on outside applications, purpose derived from a practical and utilitarian layout.
Most of Pēkšēns buildings are defined by a clear arrangement of volumes corresponding to the layout of interior spaces, careful choice of building materials and decor governed by the basic architectural form.
Such rational Art, New evidence is present in the buildings at 46, Brīvības Street (1907) and 14, Tērbatas Street (1909), apartment houses at 14, Ausekļa Street (1909), 1 and 44, Avotu Street (both 1904) and 66, Avotu Street (1912), 5, Krišjāņa Barona Street (1909), 45, Baznīcas Street (1909), 148 and 172, Brīvības Street (1912 and 1911), 5, Hospitāļu Street (1904), 6, Marijas Street (1904), 5, Noliktavas Street (1904), 3, 9 and 13, Rūpniecības Street (1908, 1910 and 1909), 32, Skolas Street (1904), 31, Slokas Street (1908), 9/11, Tērbatas Street (1912), 4 and 10, Vīlandes Street (both 1908), 12 and 14, Vīlandes Street (both 1909) and 16, Vīlandes Street (1910), — it is impossible to list them all.
Some designs by Pēkšēns contain romanticised reminiscences of historical reasons, others stand out by a vertical compositional arrangement that became especially characteristic of Riga’s New Art movement around 1910. Nevertheless, all the buildings are united by strong forms, elegance, and overall reserve in decorations perceivable only in close-up.
The National Romantic style had a special role within Riga’s Art Nouveau style, and Pēkšēns was one of the originators of this stylistic trend.
One of the first National Romantic buildings in Riga was the apartment house at 4, Lāčplēša Street (1905). It was followed by apartment buildings at 40, Krišjāņa Barona Street, 192, Brīvības Street, 1a, Sapieru Street (1907) and 46, Ģertrūdes Street (1908) designed in this idiom as interpreted by Pēkšēns.
Today it is difficult to say how much of the architecture of those buildings was created by the master himself and what was contributed by his young associates. It is known with certainty that six very interesting buildings at 23, Tallinas Street, and 12, Alberta Street, 26, Aleksandra Čaka Street, 10, Kronvalda Boulevard, as well as 15/17, Tērbatas Street and 33/35, Tērbatas Street, are the result of creative cooperation with Eižens Laube.
Although the construction designs bear the signature by Pēkšēns, the author of the artistic ideas here was Laube. At the same time, the facade of the house at 192, Brīvības Street, contains patterns of expressions characteristic to buildings designed by August Malvess.
By A. Davey on 2017-09-10 02:58:32