- Photographer: Åke Eson Lindman
Riga, Latvia. Embassy of Sweden
After extensive renovations, the Embassy of Sweden was ready to open its doors in December 1995. As soon as visitors enter reception, they encounter a sense of stylish and robust Swedish design. The architect was Janis Zalamans.
Water from all directions
The building was attractive but not in the best condition when the Swedish State took it on in 1992. The roof was in terrible disrepair, some might say practically non-existent. Rain had penetrated the walls from the top and caused damage quite a long way down into the brickwork. At the other end, damp was forcing its way up from the ground. Riga is low-lying, and its groundwater level is very close to the surface of the land. After extensive renovations, the Embassy was ready to open its doors in December 1995. As soon as visitors enter reception, they encounter a sense of stylish and robust Swedish design, which is then carried on into the rest of the interiors. The architect was Janis Zalamans.
Oasis in a World Heritage Site
The property also received a major overhaul outside. Today, a couple of young birches sway above simple seating in the garden. A small lawn and a modest but attractive flowerbed create a little oasis in the stone cityscape of the diplomatic district. The Embassy is located at Pumpura iela 8 in an area of Riga built up by wealthy merchants in the late 19th century. Today, the whole district is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.
Two öre turned into 32 million kronor
Around the time that the Second World War broke out – in 1939 – Sweden expressed a need for a new Embassy building in the city. The Latvian Government suggested Pumpura iela 8, but the price was too high and Sweden declined. One year later, Latvia was occupied. Following the country's liberation, Sweden managed with a temporary migration and information office that handled the business the Baltic people had previously been forced to conduct via St Petersburg. In 1992, Sweden got to purchase the property at Pumpura iela 8 for one Latvian ruble – a token two Swedish öre. However, the renovation work ended up costing 32 million Swedish kronor.
From private home via the CIA to the Swedish Embassy
Pumpura iela 8 was designed by architect Heinrihs Sovs and built in 1883 for the English-born merchant Henry Thomas. It is not known how long Henry Thomas lived at or rented out Pumpura iela 8, but in 1919 the Latvian YMCA moved in. For a time they rented rooms to a French school, but they also used the building themselves. For a time in the 1930s, the house was occupied by the US intelligence agency, the CIA.
Pumpura iela 8