walkscape Riga
The street of masks
Posted on November 12, 2017

Faces, intensive decorated faces. Their expressions are serious, seductive, mysterious. It is like being on the stage, feeling observed, while playing the role. Nothing to worry about it.  It is Alberta Iela, the most impressive street in Riga.

Could appear as a normal street with a bourgeois aspect, but when the nose is up, a string of buildings offer a remarkable perspective.One hundred meters of pure symbolism and ornament, in which the first-class skills of Mikhail Eisenstein emerges with a magnificent dynamism. Just a hobby for him, a Russian Army generalship, which anoints him as the undisputed protagonist of the Latvian Jugendstil.Every single building is designed with a meticulous care of details.

The undulation and the flowing lines, typical of the Art Nouveau, engage with more regular forms, which come from the Jugendstil. The intensive decorations, made of light blue ceramics, are blended with human figures and animals, which are charged by a passionate symbolism. A feature that, apparently, is also the mirror of the combated soul of Eisenstein, strained by his private problems.The female figure becomes a key point for the interpretation of his facades. Often, they are accompanied by the presence of mysterious animals, chimaeras, gargoyles and sphinxes. Beasts, coming from distant lands, that for the situation meet up on the roofs or at the doors of the buildings to protect them.

The sensations of absolute splendour which comes from this buildings, show this slice of Riga in a theatrical vision. The big masks, desperate and full of emotions, come from the theatrical culture of that era. They depict the femme fatal, that with her bohemian charm, traps the passer-by's eyes. Alberta Iela is not just a simple road, it is not just simple beauty. It is the mirror of an era. It is the architectural materialization of the emotions.