Incredible Modernist Architecture From Latvia
By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
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While scholarship and preservation of modernist structures is a given in many countries, the situation in Latvia, and the country’s relationship to its recent past is, in a word, complicated. An aversion to signifiers of the Soviet era has made cataloging that era’s architectural achievements difficult, and until now, nobody has moved to fill that gap in the historical record. Architects at NRJA, a firm founded in the Latvian capital of Riga in 2005, are using the occasion of the Venice Biennale, as well as a wave of nostalgia directed toward the post-war period, to begin chronicling their own country’s design history. Their Unwritten project will fill the Latvian pavilion with photos of Modernist structures from the post-war era, an attempt to build appreciation and understanding before buildings are lost to redevelopment. Their perspective-altering showcase is summed up in a sign above the exhibition: “There is (no) modernism in Latvia.”

Former Factory “Radiotehnika”

The architects and year built are unknown for this factor located at Kurzemes 3 in Rīga.

Photo by Igors Nerušs,

See examples of Latvian architecture on display in our slideshow.

Gas Station

Architect unknown; built in 1965 at Daugavpils 74 in Ogre.

Photo by Zigmārs Jauja, NRJA

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

Designed by architects Gunārs Lūsis-Grīnbergs and Dzintars Driba; sculpture by Valdis Albergs. Built in 1970 in Latviešu strēlnieku square Rīga.

Photo by P.Alunāns,

Restaurant “Sēnīte”

Architect—Linards Skuja; engineers—Andris Bite, G. Grīnbergs, R. Ozoliņš. Built in 1967 on Vidzeme highway.

Photo courtesy The Museum of Architecture of Latvia

Railway Station

Architect—Ilya Yavein. Built in 1977 at Jūrmala, Latvia.

Photo by: Jānis Vilniņš,

Riga High-Rises

Z-Towers (NRJA, 2004-2015); Preses nams (Jānis Vilciņš, Ābrams Misulovins, 1978); Saules akmens (ZENICO PROJEKTS, TECTUM, 2002-2004).

Photo by: Uldis Lukševics, NRJA

Restaurant Jūras Pērle

Architect—Josifs Goldenberg; built in 1965 and demolished in 1994. Located in Jūrmala, Latvia.

Photo by Mechanik,

Patrick Sisson


During the course of his career writing about music and design, Patrick Sisson has made Stefan Sagmeister late for a date and was scolded by Gil Scott-Heron for asking too many questions. His work has appeared in Pitchfork, Nothing Major, Wax Poetics, Stop Smiling and Chicago Magazine.

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