After reconstruction, Riga Castle has regained its historical magnificence
One of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Latvia has regained its historical magnificence – on 18 December 2015, the castle-front and East extension of Riga Castle were put into operation. Upon the assignment of SJSC “Valsts nekustamie īpašumi”, the castle renovation works were performed by the general partnership “SBRE”, which is formed by two construction companies – LLC “RE&RE” and LLC “Skonto Būve”, the renovation works lasting for a period of three years.
The complex of Riga Castle has formed as a result of sequential historical transformations, turning from a dwelling of the Livonian Order into the residence of the President of Latvia. In premises of the President Chancellery, which are situated in the East extension part of the castle, the cabinet of the state’s first person and meeting halls, workplaces of the Press Service and representation premises have been renovated. Each of these premises has been renovated in its historical appearance, adding contemporary functionality and quality.
Also the State President Raimonds Vējonis got acquainted with the reconstructed Riga Castle in a festive event, which took place on 22 December, and, after observing the castle, he admitted that the job is done very well. “Eight presidents of Latvia have called Riga Castle as their workplace, and after a few months I will also have this honor to do so. For me personally, starting the work in Riga Castle will be emotional – already for centuries the history of Latvia has been written in these walls,” indicates the President Raimonds Vējonis. The State President also expressed his gratitude to the Council on Restoration of Riga Castle, especially, Imants Lancmanis, SJSC “Valsts nekustamie īpašumi” and constructors general partnership “SBRE” – everyone who made his or her contribution for returning Riga Castle to its historical gloss.
During the festive event, the Chairman of the Council on Restoration of Riga Castle Imants Lancmanis explained that this day gives great satisfaction to all participants involved in the project. “Changes made by each century and reconstruction have brought their contribution in terms of art and architecture. Also the Festival Hall, where we are now, has experienced happy and dramatic moments. In 1938, the President Ulmanis could receive 1038 guests here, and in 1940, paintings appeared on the ceiling, which were later forbidden. It is one of the beauty aspects of this castle – ideologically, it is not completed and it never will be completed. The work done until now has been a huge collective effort, performed with admirable selflessness and commitment. I wish this building to bring happiness to all of us and be like a gift for Christmas and the New Year!” also Lancmanis is proud of the achieved result.
During the event, the Director General of LLC “RE&RE” Didzis Putniņš explained that reconstruction and restoration of Riga Castle serves as a good example for how history can find harmony with nowadays. “Today is a happy day not only for us, constructors, but also for all who are present. We have enormous satisfaction for everything achieved during these three years, despite the previously mentioned challenges. I think that words and works of involved people, and this moment will be written in the history also centuries from now. During renovation works of the castle, a previously unseen work of art was discovered – a moulding of Walter von Plettenberg, the master of the Livonian Order, created approximately in 1515, copies of which today are given to those who have made significant contribution in implementation of this project,” indicated D. Putniņš.
We reasonably consider the four splendid halls – the Festival Hall, White Hall, Ambassador Accreditation Hall and the Hall of Coats of Arms – the pride of Riga Castle. Considering the special interior of each of the above mentioned halls and the situation prior to performance of construction works, the persons involved in the project admit that renovation of these premises was a huge challenge, therefore, there is even larger satisfaction about the achieved result.
The Festival Hall had not been used for a long time and served as a storage room, therefore, we had to put a lot of effort to show in their historical appearance all interior elements created in 1938 pursuant to the project of Eižens Laube – ceiling paintings, furniture, wooden details and chandeliers. A huge amount of work was done for renovation of the White Hall, which involved reconstruction of interior, constructions and finish. As a result, the hall interior created in the 19th century got renewed gilding, which covers 68 m2 of the entire area of walls and ceiling, and also strengthening and construction of roof structures and ceiling beams has been implemented.
Also renovation of the Ambassador Accreditation Hall has been quite complicated – research and renovation of the 86 years old ceiling and wall paintings by Ansis Cīrulis was very complex. Specialists indicate that the painting created in 1929 was in a very bad condition, however, after several months of hard work, the original ceiling and wall paintings by A. Cīrulis, created in a style of folk romanticism, have regained their initial appearance. While in the Hall of Coats of Arms all 72 coats of arms of cities and towns, as well as four regions have been renovated, and the hall composition has been supplemented by heraldry of missing towns. Also new chequered parquet has been decked in the hall.
Premises with an area of almost 10,000 m2 have been reconstructed, moreover, performing not only restoration of the building, but also of all artistic and functional elements. Renovation of load-bearing structures and strengthening of foundation and structures has been performed, as well as renovation of furniture, paintings, chandeliers, wall and ceiling paintings, and interior finish has been completed in all parts of the castle. During the construction works, approximately 250 people were working in Riga Castle, and another 60-70 people – in workshops all around Latvia.