Architect Christoph Haberland (1750–1803)
Christoph Haberland was a mason and architect with a uniquely bold artistic vision that would take Rīga into the Enlightenment era, leaving behind the old medieval style. He is today considered an outstanding master of classicism architecture. Unusual for the time, he took the work of an architect to be an artistic and conceptual pursuit, rather than a strictly practical one.
After having travelled and studied in places such as Berlin and Dresden, Haberland returned to his native Rīga where he was admitted to the mason guild, and in 1778 became the assistant to the then chief architect of Rīga, Johann Peter Leicht. Haberland was appointed chief architect of the city of Rīga after the death of Leicht in 1789 and served in the position until 1797. Haberland’s work is said to have been inspired by the Frenchman Jean Francois de Neufforge (1714–1791), who himself broke with tradition when he decided to turn away from the lavish décor of the rococo period and embrace the simplicity of classical antiquity.
Haberland designed and built both town houses and manor houses, as well as church buildings. His most well-known, and at the time avant-garde, work is the round Katlakalna Lutheran Church near Rīga, completed in 1794. Modelled on the pantheon in Rome in its spatial construction, it also adheres to the clean geometric shapes of classicism. Another church built in Alūksne (1781−1788) is seen as his most impressive clerical building overall. He also supplied the design for the Baroque-Classicist marble pulpit for St. Peter’s Church in Rīga. Built in Italy, the pulpit was installed under Haberland’s direction in 1793.
Working mainly in the narrow streets of Old Rīga, Haberland managed nevertheless to create the impression of monumental buildings. They would typically have three floors, in addition to the mansard roof level – a distinct feature of his architectural designs. Often, the interior would prominently feature a round or oval space. The townhouse on Šķūņu iela 17 in Rīga, built for councillor Johann Samuel von Hollander (1754−1799), is an exquisite example. Inspired by the classical buildings of the Roman and ancient Greek times, and true to the romantic undercurrent of the classicist style, his interior designs featured the use of columns, niches, and decorative elements such as acanthus foliage and vines.
The work of Haberland continued to be an inspiration to others after his death. An example is the façade of what is now the Latvian National Theatre, built 1900−1902, by August Reinberg. Many of Haberland’s created buildings were destroyed over time, especially during World War II. Today, there remain more than 17 buildings or partial structures in Latvia that were created by Haberland, all designated as national treasures of architecture. Haberland’s legacy is felt throughout the historic centre of Rīga, as well as visiting the Column Hall at the Museum of the History of Rīga and Navigation. Christoph Haberland lays interred in Rīga Great Cemetery, now a public park, alongside many other notable figures of Latvian history.
Lancmanis, I. (2013). Kristofs Hāberlands (1750-1803): starp modernismu un avangardu = Christoph Haberland (1750-1803): zwischen Modernismus und Avantgarde. No: Vācu arhitekti Latvijā = Deutsche Architekten in Lettland (78.-89. lpp.). Rīga.