The Šampēteris neighbourhood, my little corner of Pārdaugava on Riga’s south side, has a potpouri of
structures spanning the generations – “Swiss-style” wooden cottages, Khruschev-era blocks of various sizes, and the inevitable banal nest of “luxury apartments.” And from all of this, time has
crafted the odd intriguing ruin.
A truly beautiful and intriguing abandoned place can be found sliding down Šampētera iela almost to Zasulauks station. Here a proud brick tower rises above a half abandoned, half (judging by the new windows and fresh razor wire) rejuvenated industrial site, at first glance looking uncannily like a provincial English church.
But people didn’t worship God here; instead, they reached for the heavens with a little help from science. These are the remains of the “Motors” factory, funded by engineer and entrepreneur Teodors Kaleps, where the first aeroplanes and aircraft engines in Imperial Russia were assembled. The workers at the plant at one point included the later rocket scientist and inventor Frīdrihs Canders and the father of modern Latvian theatre Eduards Smiļģis.
Of course there’s a lot more to tell about the history of this place, and I might go into it a bit more another time. But I can’t help but stop here and gasp a bit at the creative energy and fantastic dreams that once bubbled away here. I hope in the name of what we miserably call “progress” today the tower doesn’t get demolished, because this is one hell of a place to draw inspiration.