Riga - City of Inspiration
Riga is considered the world capital and metropolis of Art Nouveau (German: Jugenstil). The Riga ‘Jugenstil’ is unique and distinct from its German cousin. No other city in the world has preserved so many fine examples of buildings made in this style that dominated art and architecture at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. Art Nouveau with its decorative elegance, curving lines and freedom of choice is regarded by many as the cream of architectural styles. More than 700 buildings or nearly 40% of all buildings in the very centre of today’s Riga are built in the Riga Art Nouveau style. The highest concentration of any metropolitan city centre in the world.
Riga competes with Reykjavik in the highest concentration of wooden architecture of any European capital. Excellent examples of architectural fantasies in wood can be found all over the city. Up until the end of the 19th century there was a rule in Riga that more or less prohibited the construction of non-wooden buildings outside the walls of the old town and the citadel. Consequently, the construction of wooden buildings in central Riga continued to flourish unlike elsewhere in Europe where timber was replaced by stone, brick, concrete and other non-wood materials. The tradition of using wood as the key building material in the city centre continued up to World War I. Surprisingly enough, wooden urban architecture experienced a renaissance in the 1930s.
The historical centre of Riga including the Old Town, the wooden architecture and the fine collection of Art Nouveau buildings is considered by UNESCO to be so remarkable that it has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This means that the historical centre is under special protection. The Latvian parliament has passed legislation that prohibits activities that may harm or ruin the cultural-historical heritage in the historic centre of Riga. There is public comission that supervises the preservation of the historic centre.
Riga was officially founded by the German Bishop Albert in 1201. The city joined the Hanseatic League in 1282. German rule was replaced by Swedish rule in 1629. Riga became the largest city of the Swedish Kingdom. In 1710 Riga came under Russian control, however, German influenece remained. In 1873 the first all Latvia Song Festival was held in Riga. An economic and building boom at the beginning of the 20th century made Riga into the leading Art Nouveau (Jugenstil) city in the world. From 1901 to 1912 Riga had a British mayor, Mr. George Armitstead. Riga and Latvia enjoyed independence from 1918 to 1940 when the Soviet and German occupations started. Riga stayed under Soviet rule until 1991 when Riga and Latvia regained independence and freedom. In 2001 Riga celebrated its 800-year-anniversary and was one of Europe’s Cities of Culture. Today Riga is one of Europe’s most dynamic and rapidly developing cities.
Riga is very important both for the development of the Riga region as well as for the whole of Latvia, because the metropolitan region, i.e. the city of Riga including surrounding region is home for 48% or approximately 1.1 million of total population of Latvia.. During the recent years, the number of resident in Riga city is annually has decreased while in the population of the metropolitan region has somwhat increased. In other people have gradually moved outwards to live outside the city, keeping their working places and other activities located within the city.
The economic developent in Riga focuses around six main areas:
The main industrial sectors in Riga are food production, the pharmaceutical industry, wood processing and furniture production, and the production of communication technologies.
GDP in Riga is concentrated in the sectors the of wholesale and retail trade, real estate, rentals, sales, transport and communications and manufacturing. Stabilised macroeconomic conditions together with the completion of privatization and the improvement of the investment climate has contributed to increasing foreign direct investments (FDI) in domestic enterprises shows a steady upward trend in all sectors of economy. Riga accounts for roughly 75% of total FDI in Latvia. Approximately 54% of all Latvian enterprises are concentrated within Riga city, and the major part of the industrial output (just over 53%) is connected with Riga city, too. Therefore, urban development in riga has been very intensive and has had a notable impact on both the city of Riga and the metropolitan region.
Economic transition has meant that employment in the public sector has decreased, while the share of the private sector has incresed. About a half of workplaces in Latvia in manufacturing and construction and 60% of workplaces in the service sector are located in Riga while the employed Riga workforce accounts only for 40% of the total in Latvia. In the financial sector and real estate Riga’s share of workplaces is even higher – 88% and 82% of the Latvian total respectively.
A major advantage of Riga today is its strategic location. Riga city is an international transport hub at the crossroad of European transport routes. As well as the advatageous geographical position, there are traditional trade links with CIS cities, traditional western culture and low production costs, as well an improving infrastructure. Nevertheless the present capacity of the Riga street network is not appropriate to integrate regional and international transport into city. Today transport development in Riga has to address the following issues: Riga Capital Region Bypass, motorway links to the seaport and airport, and mass transit issues.
In recent years the city has become the biggest financial hub in the Baltic States and the city has become a place where a considerable amount of foreign capital, especially that of Eastern origin, has accumulated and circulated.
Despite a decline in industrial production since 1989 Riga remains the largest industrial centre in Latvia and in the Baltic States.. The industrial re-structuring has been in line with the requirements of the market economy but sometimes has been slowed down by a shortage of financial resources available to manufacturers. Most of the largest enterprises still need substantial investments from abroad. The industrial structure has also changed dramatically: today, one can observe rapid growth in industries that are mainly based on local resources, such as wood-processing and food industries. Today more and more large companies, such as 'Laima', 'Aldaris' and 'Rigas Miesnieks', make products that meet the highest Western standards.
Every year thousands of tourists from as both Europe and as far afield as Japan visit Riga.. Infrastructure that promotes the development of tourism is in the process of being created, numerous entertainment and cultural programmes are offered, and relevant information and service systems are increasingly available. Riga is becoming the new Congress and Conference City in Europe. Many believe it is the Coolest Congress and Conference City of the 21st century.
Riga is the centre of education and science in Latvia. It houses 27 higher education institutions (26 in the city of Riga) and 65 research centres. Riga offers an attractive work location and excellent career opportunitiefor young educated professionals. Once students come to Riga to study they often stay on after graduation.
Housing issues and land development are outlined in the Riga Development Plan for 2006 – 2018. Given the special status of Riga city as as a protected area, it is essential to consider with care the development of Riga so as to ensure that Riga remains an attractive place to live and work in as well as to visit.