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2015 | 18 | 34-47

Article title

Rīgas pilsētas gāzes fabriku arhitektūra 19. gadsimta otrajā pusē un 20. gadsimta sākumā

Title variants

Architecture of Gasworks in Riga in the Second Half of the 19th Century and Early 20th Century

Languages of publication



As an essential element in urban development, Riga’s first gas factory complex (1859–1862, Adolf Kühnell, Paul Stephany) was allocated a plot of land along the city canal. It was surrounded by other important public buildings, which were built inside the ring of boulevards that surrounded the old town. Nevertheless, the location limited the further expansion of gasworks and such buildings were later moved out of the city centre to foster the development of this branch of industry. Firstly, they appeared on the left bank of the Daugava River, like the gas station in Mūkusala (1872–1873, Karl Felsko), and then the second gasworks was established in the Moscow Suburb (1873–1875, Emil Kurgas), expanding over several decades. From the 1860s till World War I, six gasholders in all were constructed in Riga. The gasholder was the largest structure of a gasworks – the first industrial building created as a result of laboratory experiments. Both of Riga’s gasworks had telescopic holders. A tendency to build so-called gasholder houses or architectonic shells as independent superstructures enveloping the gasholder from the outside, spread in the early 19th century Europe on the assumption they lessened security risks. This turned out to be wrong and no such superstructures emerged in Great Britain from that time on. However, this practice continued elsewhere in Europe where climatic conditions were more severe. Since the gas factory buildings in the first place were of a utilitarian nature, the aesthetic aspects of their architectural design may have played a less important role. In order to keep construction costs low and avoid complaints by local residents, it was not advisable to erect the gas factory buildings in the most luxurious areas of the city centre; suburbs were to be preferred. Nevertheless, Riga’s first gas factory building not only stood in the very centre, between the old town and the boulevard zone, but also manifested a sophisticated architectural solution in harmony with the location. According to the current trends of the age, the façades of buildings were accomplished in the Tudor version of Neo-Gothic style topical in Riga at the time. Such a choice was possibly inspired by the client’s ideas of social prestige as well as the context of the surroundings: in the late 1850s – early 1860s, the city canal greenery was envisaged in line with the landscaped park according to English traditions.


  • Megaphone Publishers Ltd, 11 Torņa Street, Riga LV-1050, Latvia


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