In the early 1900s Riga, the current capital of Latvia, experienced a period of great splendor. Within a few decades it became, with seven hundred thousand inhabitants (more or less the population of today), the third most important city, after Moscow and St. Petersburg, of the tzarist empire that had been taken from Sweden in 1710.
The universal exhibition of the Crafts and the Industrial Arts, organized in 1901, signaled Riga to world’s attention, and attracted entrepreneurs and professionals of rank on the banks of the Daugava River. Among these was Michail Ejsenstein, an engineer without a noble title, a snob, however well-married, who, in 1911, left his native St. Petersburg, where he had haunted the Romanov court, and obtained immediate success in Riga, creating buildings inspired by the new style that raged in Europe: the Jugendstil.
The events, alternating, of the complicated existence of the engineer are told with much verve, and many details, by the Dutch writer Jan Brokken, in the book Baltishe zielen (Atlas Publisher, Amsterdam, 2010) which is referred to the reader who is not satisfied with these brief notes.
We need only to know that the innovative professional filled with his buildings different streets (jela) of the city as the Alberta and Elisabetes, but especially that his most famous work was not a palace, but a son: the film director Sergej. The one, to be understood, of the Armor Potëmkin and of October; the film-maker of the Soviet revolution, who, precisely because of his ideas, never got along with his father, irreproachable tzarist and who, like him, ended badly, excommunicated by Stalin.
Brokken lists, better than many web pages do, the buildings Ejsenstein signed. He writes: “The first building he designed, after the exhibition, in 33 Elisabetes street , was so white, so fresh and so exuberant that it would not have jarred in a Mediterranean city”. And then: “The following six buildings, all in Alberta street, rivaled in eccentricity, not so much for the shape … as for colors and decorations”. And yet: “He had designed six sumptuously decorated palaces, at numbers 2a, 4, 65, 8, 11 and 13 of Alberta street, three other apartment complexes at numbers 10a, 10b and 33 of Elisabetes street and another building at number 99 of the Brividas street “.
In the photos that follow, details of several of these buildings appear, recently restored since Riga returned to independence in 1991. Since 1997 the city’s historic center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 2004 Latvia is a member of the European Union and since 2014 its currency is the Euro.