National Romanticism belongs to the most controversial trends in the architecture of the early 20th century. Connections between National Romanticism and Art Nouveau in Riga were detected already between the wars, and there is a reasonable ground to consider National Romanticist architecture as a modification of Art Nouveau. But some particular questions of National Romanticism are still waiting for answers. This article about the Atis Kenins School (1905, Terbatas Street 15/17, architects Konstantins Peksens and Eizens Laube), the first public building of this style in Riga and one of the most outstanding examples of it, tries to answer some of these questions. The present look of the Atis Kenins School differs from the elevation drawing in the project as well as from some early- 20th-century photographs that show more influences of Finnish architecture. It was a very important source of inspiration for the National Romanticist architecture in Riga. Comparing the general features of the Finnish architecture with those of the Latvian National Romanticist architecture, the article tries to define the specificity of National Romanticism, pointing to some stereotypes in methodological approach. Conclusions based on research experience in other countries do not allow to interpret the National Romanticist architecture as a manifestation of national identity. Even the school owner Atis Kenins' very nationalist-minded personality does not convince that the look of the building is expressive of Latvian identity. These aspirations are only part of a certain stylistic trend that comprises many other features as well. The analysis of the Kenins School interiors proves that National Romanticist interiors should be included in one typological group with different stylistic elements. So the term of National Romanticism in Riga as well as in Finland and other countries should be used as a neutral stylistic category.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.