Architect Reinhold Schmeling (1840–1917)
Reinhold Schmeling was Rīga’s chief architect at a time when the city flourished. Between 1879 and 1915 he not only designed many of the city’s iconic public and residential buildings, but also devised a very advanced new development plan for Rīga. His light brick, mixed red brick and light plaster buildings are easily recognised and represent one of the city’s signature styles.
Rīga’s new development plan was one of Schmeling’s first assignments when he took office. Though the plan was never actually awarded official legal status, it was said to be ahead of its time and included strict guidelines on territorial and spatial planning. Regardless of its official status, the plan undeniably affected the city’s development, and its consequences are still visible in today’s urban landscape. The council began to look at things more holistically and put more thought into where new buildings, such as schools, churches, abattoirs, markets, graveyards, logistics centres and other public facilities should be built and how they would interact. Unfortunately, no copies of the plan survived.
At the time of Schmeling’s appointment, Rīga was growing fast. Right before World War I the city’s population grew to over 500 000. With this came industrialisation and the need for more advanced transport systems. Schmeling got right to the heart of solving the city’s new needs.
While dedicating a lot of time to planning, Schmeling also continued to work on his own designs. His legacy consists of numerous residential buildings, three hospitals, two markets, more than twenty schools, five fire stations, a horse post station, administrative buildings and more.
One style that Schmeling is particularly well known for is his brick architecture, characterised by yellow brick facades with structural details. The Āgenskalns Market (1911) and Vidzeme Market (1902) buildings are prime examples, which can still be seen standing today.
Another of Schmeling’s signature styles was combining red brick with light-coloured plaster, which was the fashion in Northern Europe at the time. He built many schools in this style, including the school at Augusta Deglava iela 3, as well as hospitals and other public buildings. Similar buildings are seen in Germany and Scandinavia.
The architect is also known for his innovations in interior architecture. He introduced a new layout for school buildings which saw classrooms being placed next to corridors intended for recreation. He was also involved in the painstaking restoration of Rīga’s 1st City Theatre (now, the Latvian National Opera and Ballet) after a fire in 1882. While its facade remained largely unchanged, the interior was completely restructured.
Schmeling was born in Rīga in 1840. At the age of eighteen, he started his studies at the Architecture Department of the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, from which he graduated with a gold medal and a travel grant. Subsequently, he spent four years in Germany and Italy where he gained the latest insights into architecture of the time. Schmeling then worked in St Petersburg and Crimea until he was invited to become Rīga’s chief architect.
Many of Schmeling’s buildings are protected cultural monuments of national and local importance. Almost 100 of his buildings still enrich Rīga’s cityscape. See fine examples, such as the pumping station at Eksporta iela 2b (1908), Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital at Pilsoņu iela 13 (1908–1915) and the residential buildings at Miera iela 5 (1912), Matīsa iela 9 (1902) and Ģertrūdes iela 38 (1907).
Still today, Schmeling is honoured every year at the city council’s architecture and city planning conference held in his name.
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