Liepāja is one of Latvian cultural, artistic and entertainment centers. Rich in local traditions and history, home to the famous Liepāja Symphony orchestra and a professional theatre, a number of festivals and events throughout the year.
Some call Liepāja the “capital of music”. And it comes as no surprise, especially when one takes into account longstanding accomplishments and achievements of the Liepāja Music high school, for many decades led by its soul – maestro Valdis Vikmanis. The roots of Latvian rock have also been laid down here in Liepāja. Since 1960s Liepāja has been closely associated with Latvian rock music. Famous Latvian musicians and composers like Zigmars Liepiņš, Aivars Hermanis, brothers Rodrigo and Ivo Fomins, Uldis Marhilēvičs, Ainars Virga, Jānis Grodums, Tomass Kleins, Aivars Brīze, Guntars Račs, Andris Ēglis, Fēlikss Ķiģelis, Valdis Skujiņš, Guntis Veits and many others – those are the names that every Latvian music lover knows by heart.
Even though many artists hailing from Liepāja enrich musical life both in Latvia and around the world, most of them keep in touch with their native city. Therefore, soon enough Liepāja will rebuild its open-air concert hall “Pūt, vējiņi!” and revive the widely remembered and popular rock-music festival “Liepājas Dzintars” (“The Amber of Liepāja”). At the same time Liepāja will provide a completely new home for the core of Kurzeme’s classical music – the Liepāja Symphony orchestra. The construction of the ambitious and grand “Big Amber” hall has just been started.
Liepāja Art and Design high school is another cornerstone of Kurzeme’s cultural traditions. Once led by a legendary philosopher Rihards Rubīns, it has always been at the cultural vanguard with progressive and sometimes even rebellious dreams. While other Eastern European towns still slept behind the iron curtain, Liepāja hosted art days and works of Liepāja’s artists decorated the city walls, thus creating a special aura that still hovers in the city. Virtually in every single detail of the local surroundings the inhabitants of Liepāja try to bring to life something distinctive for this windy coast of Kurzeme, such as sculptures from Liepāja’s anthem placed around the Kūrmājas prospekts.
Without a doubt it is the inhabitants of Liepāja who, by uniting into many various artistic, dance, singing, drawing, sports, crafting and other collectives as well as otherwise participating in the city’s cultural life, enrich its daily life and thus shape the local mentality and character.
Liepāja is impossible to imagine without the major architectural features that shape the city’s image – Art Nouveau style, the creations of Paul Max Bertschy and numerous wooden buildings.
Most definitely, the architectural pride of the city is its buildings constructed in the Art Nouveau style or Jugendstil. The city has preserved a number of wooden houses with beautiful murals in stairwells and carvings on their facades made in Art Nouveau. The most prominent buildings in Art Nouveau style can be seen on such streets as Graudu, Dzintaru and Liepu.
Paul Max Bertschy’s creations, on the other hand, can be seen all around the city. And why wouldn’t they? He was Liepāja’s chief architect for almost 30 years! His favorite working material was red brick, from which were built not only residential houses and public institutions, but also various production facilities, thus proving the possibility of giving a beautiful architectural image to industrial objects.
Liepāja has the largest amount of preserved wooden houses amongst Latvian cities dating back as far as 17-18 centuries. Kungu iela (which used to be the main street in the 18th century) is the one where almost half of all houses date that far back.
There is also another interesting place in Liepāja for those who think that they have seen it all. If so, welcome to Karosta – former military base for both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. It is exceptional, rough, elegant, modest, lavish... One can continue with the opposites, because it combines everything – from the tsarist splendor and elegance to the soviet simplicity.
Despite the fact that some of the historical events that took place in our region, have not spared Liepāja, the city continues to grow steadily – new streets are built, modern buildings erected, altogether allowing the city to assert itself as a cultural and technological centre with rich historical heritage by not being afraid to face new challenges and trying out innovative approaches to overcome them.
For more information please visit www.liepajaskultura.lv