Ziemeļblāzma palace is reborn

Ziemeļblāzma palace is reborn
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014 . Ziemeļblāzma palace
Una Griškeviča
This week-end – May 4 and 5 – will resonate in the opening concert of the Main hall and park of Ziemeļblāzma, but there are people at work in the palace and park already a couple of days before, putting the finishing touches, preparing and ordering this cultural venue for the arrival of guests; its edifice, built by Maecenas and wood industrialist Augusts Dombrovskis a hundred years ago, white and proud, towers, awaiting the ceremony, in the center of beautiful scenery.

Now Riga has Rundāle of its own

It is difficult to disagree with one of the guests’ phrase overheard in the park: the
renovated building is stately and resplendent, and park looks impressive, observed
from the 35 meters’ height of the viewing platform. ‘And with the foliage breaking
out and roses coming to blossom, it will be lovely indeed,’ the guest visiting the park
on the same day as cultural portal 'Riga 2014' concluded.

Publicity photo

Photo: Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

But, as Ziemeļblāzma’s director of development Liene Kubiļus tells, even as recently
as in 2011, the sight to meet the visitor was sad as the palace had been allowed
to decrepit to very limit. ‘The walls were crumbling, the paint – peeling, water –
flooding the place and all we managed to do was put pots and pans in the corners to
save ourselves from its deluge…’ – Liene recalls, mentioning that then minister of
culture Sarmīte Ēlerte and the director of the National Museum of Art Māra Lāce
came to assess the place prior to repairs, the visit resulting in a slightly shocking tv
reel. Now, an excursion to renovated premises would make it hard to believe, but it is
a fact that the palace lacked even water supply system before the renewal…

Photo: Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

The renovation amounting to 9 million lats in costs (this municipal funding was
used to restore the palace as well as for landscaping of the five acres of surrounding park and putting communications in place) opened, both, Small and Main hall of Ziemeļblāzma for use, its Main hall boasting also the original three chandeliers, restored by Latvian artisans, as well as other rooms of the building – polished, inviting and full of light.

‘And why wouldn’t this place invite theatres?’

‘The capacity of the hall is 700 viewers, but, since the seats are movable, it can
accommodate even much more if needed,’ Liene Kubiļus characterizes the Main hall of the palace, taking pride in the new acoustic wall on the way, which will prove useful already on May 6 when Ziemeļblāzma receives the contest – part of the Choir Wars – of the participants of national Song and Dance festival 2013. By the way, the acoustics designed for varying musical styles was already highly esteemed by the conductor-prior of the Festival Romāns Vanags.

‘Next year, in turn, when Riga is European Capital of Culture, Ziemeļblāzma
will hold the activities of World Quire Games; and several events of the ‘Road
Map’ thematic line of 'Riga 2014' program also were planned for this cultural

Development manager of cultural palace ‘Ziemeļblāzma’ Liene Kubiļus. Photo:
Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

‘If people can ride from Purvciems to work, why could they not come to what
we will offer here?’ Liene asks rhetorically underlining that a bus ride from the
center to Ziemeļblāzma takes about half an hour and less if the traffic is favorable. So, the administration of Ziemeļblāzma is planning a busy schedule of cultural events, including major concerts and theatrical performances, which the width of the stage allows for, all the more so since the outer wall of the palace soon will be furnished with a decorations lift. ‘We who live in Riga can easily access Daile and National theatres, therefore what we would like to see here are Valmiera, Liepāja and Daugavpils troupes, for example. Their spring tours will be reserved for the stages in the center this year, but next year we will offer this alternative,’ development manager is convinced revealing that there are already arrangements on the way for Daugavpils theatre visit. The palace will also open a filial of Riga Central Library.

But roses will need keeping an eye on

Telling about the newly landscaped garden of the palace, designed in French style, Liene motions towards such features as a playground for children, alley of vines, renovated rotunda and tea-house designed by architect Eižens Laube.

‘Rotunda has replaced the first structure of the palace, built by Augusts
Dombrovskis and destroyed in the revolutionary unrest of 1906, which prompted the use of cement as material for the building dating from 1913.’

The renovated rooms and painting of walls and ceilings, development manager tells, revealed a thick cultural layer of renovations, which had taken place – especially – in the Soviet period, resulting in choices to leave a mixed – Soviet and earlier historic – residue of this interior decoration. Vignette crowning the stage in the Main hall has been restored in full of its former splendor, bringing to the fore the once host of the palace – the society for temperance ‘Ziemeļblāzma’ in its symbol – Northern star, the aurora borealis and the years 1913 and 2013 dating the foundation and the renovation of the palace.

The renovated tea-house, architect Eižens Laube, in the park of the palace. Photo:
Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

Liene readily answers the question regarding the all-around fencing of the palace –
it serves to preserve the venue from all kinds of vandalism. ‘We already have this
experience: somebody had been ‘enterprising’ enough to borrow under the fence and
enter the garden only to steal all our rose plants; which is why the territory will be
close circuited by the cameras and even guarded, and locked for the night exactly as is
the practice of all the major parks in European capitals.’

However, every inhabitant of Vecmīlgrāvis and Riga as a whole as well as every
visitor of our country is most welcome to visit the palace, the viewing platform
and the park by day; while the cultural activities of Ziemeļblāzma are displayed in:  www.ziemelblazma.riga.lv



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