From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Spilve airport building on the left bank of the Daugava River provided visitors with their first impression of Riga. It was home to Latvia's main airport and therefore had not only a practical, but also a representative (read: propaganda) function to fulfil.
For this reason, considerable attention was paid to the aesthetics of this Neoclassical edifice's interior and, to a lesser extent, its exterior as well - unlike the case with most soulless structures that were built during the Soviet era.
Constructed during the final years of Stalin's rule and completed in 1954, the Spilve airport building still has an enormous mural painting in its spacious, main hall. The mural depicts a group of joyous Latvian youths in folk costumes - some of them bearing the communist, red flag - welcoming a young, smiling, Russian couple to their capital city. At the top of the mural, a plane can be seen flying over Riga's picturesque skyline. Everyone is happy, for they are all looking forward to a bright, communist future of brotherhood among nations - and to the continued technological advancement of their beloved, Soviet motherland.
Legend has it that Stalin was the central figure in the original version of the painting, but that after his death the smiling, Russian couple was painted in his place. Another, smaller mural depicts the pine-covered sand dunes of Jūrmala - the nearby resort town that was an immensely popular tourist destination for visitors from the other Soviet republics. A casting of the U.S.S.R.'s coat-of-arms also still remains on the building's façade.
Riga's main airport has since moved to a different location and the once busy airport building at Spilve now lies abandoned and forgotten. The tree-lined alley that leads to the deserted edifice ends in an empty parking lot, with weeds sprouting up through the cracks in the aging asphalt.
Tiny signs with the words Apsargājams objekts ("object under guard") can be seen behind some of the windows. The elderly, Russian-speaking guard is friendly enough and if he happens to be in a good mood, then he might let you obtain a closer look at these silent, architectural remnants of an era now past.
Spilves iela 1
Keywords: Riga, architecture