One Building - Many Stories

Lativan National Library. 
The Latvian National Library sits across the river from where we live. Built in 2014, the shape of the building is very unique. We've heard several versions about why it was built in that shape.

One book says that it is the shape of the Duchy of Courland - the area around Riga during the 1700s before Latvia was formed. See the yellow area in the map below.
Courland on map

Another version that we heard is based on a story called "The Glass Mountain" where the sons of three noblemen tried to rescue a princess on top of a mountain. Two of the princes climbed up the steep side to try to reach the princess but died while they were climbing since it was so steep. The third prince took the long way and climbed up the much longer but easier part of the mountain and managed to reach the top to rescue the princess.

Library with statue in front
The third story is the nickname for the library: "The Castle of Light." This is a metaphor for the wisdom that was lost when the darkness of war, invasion, and occupation occurred in the past for the Latvian people. The library shows that wisdom has risen from the Daugava River for the Latvian people since they have survived the darkness.

The building was designed by Latvian architect Gunnar Birkerts. I'm not sure why he chose that design, but it's well known around the world for it's shape.
View of the library up the long side

Last week we tried to go into the library to look at the interior. We were prohibited from getting any farther than the door because of the pandemic restrictions here in Riga. It's quite impressive from up close, anyways.

I don't know which story about the library is the best reason for this strangely shaped building, but it sure is good for a conversation piece.

Front entrance of the library

Interior of the building


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