ADS FOREVER. Saving private Firewalls

Rīga is now facing a negative tendency of fast-shrinking amount of recent street art pieces, also including the historical billboard ads. Only a few legendary works have left grieving for their lost ones. There was an enormously sized 2x5-storey Old Town panorama in front of the Central Train Terminal that has now gone, also a large announcement inviting to visit cinemas in Iļguciems has been partially painted already. Yet, there is one epic piece of a real pre-capitalist Soviet ad building up its legend today as we speak.

lada, žiguļi, lada siena, krāsotāju iela, mural, soviet, ad, advertisement, 2018

Important to mention before we go – historical billboard ads in Rīga, unofficially, mean both Imperial Russian advertisements and shop signs painted around neighbourhoods during the massive industrialization 50 years prior to World War I, as well as the social advertisements covering largest firewalls in the city during the Soviet Era and during the first decade of Latvia’s second independence in the nineties. Most of people count them in because of the technique of appliance still being traditional, paint-over manner, rather than simply hanging a banner.

An then there is the epic “Rīgas LADA” from 1985 trying to sell a later, less legendary version of the most-wanted Soviet car to own and symbolizing the true coming of capitalist age starting from mid-80’s, when wast majority firewall murals were still either of social character ("read more and go to libraries", "enjoy more cinema" etc.), or for special occasions (anniversaries or Soviet reign related symbolic).

LADA wall was and still is epic for two reasons. From one hand, it is a well known and well kept 5-storey sized commercial ad recognizable and recognized by many locals in the superb Grīziņkalns neighbourhood. From the other hand, a year ago Rīga and its inhabitants almost lost this enormous piece of history to the city’s construction authority (who composed whole 3 protocols with a potential fine of 1425 euro claiming that the ad still sells after 30+ years of oblivion), if not the huge resonance across the mass media to save it.

CAPITAL R were asked to share their opinion by the tenement house owners themselves, and we provided them with 6 strong reasons to prove, why this firewall should stay untouched and should even gain a monumental status:
  • despite the short lifespan of the LADA ad, this unique type of a visual material is already more seldom seen as ever before, while representing the history of visual communication, marketing, urban environment and the development of society in contemporary Latvia lavishly;
  • the object, comparing to other social and business announcements from the Soviet era, has aged extremely well;
  • the performance and uniqueness of the ad is a peace of work by a highly professional designers, increasing the visual richness of Krāsotāju street and Grīziņkalns suburb rather than spoiling it (e.g. a witty idea to paint the car angled so it appears like it's parked on a neighbouring roof from afar);
  • the ad does not contain subtext or slippery content, nor criminal character, it does not provoke to any forms of hate or conflict, does not praise any regime, and most of all, the owners of the real estate do not mind;
  • as far as we know the LADA firewall is frequently included in cross-neighbourhood tours and excursions as a must-see object. It is mentioned again and again to both foreign and local visitors and travellers visiting Grīziņkalns and Avoti neighbourhoods, and the wall’s presence opens another angle on Soviet life in Latvia; at the same time the ad is located in the historical centre of Rīga thus potentially increasing the general amount of visitors and is an important destination from this point of view as well;
  • browsing trough post history in social media as well as remembering our own mentioned/published content time to time – the people of Rīga and its guests, that often visit Krāsotāju street or Grīziņkalns/Avoti suburbs, frequently do it for the sake of the LADA firewall, they have "folklorized" the object, and the ad has become one of the most significant characters of suburbs. 
Although the experts of the National Board of Cultural Heritage declared the LADA advertisement not being even close to a historical heritage, the city’s construction authority dropped their charges soon after the clamour, realizing that the car selling company had been gone bankrupt already in 2003.
“We didn’t ask for it to be announced as something of a monumental heritage, we only asked - if the ad has any historio-cultural value to it whatsoever," comments a shareholder of the building Helmuts Jauja. “We won’t touch the piece without a reason now, but we must look at this situation from another angle – a practical perspective as owners, who might need to insulate the wall someday, although we don’t have any plans related to this matter in the near future. We enjoy the painting thoroughly, and, thanks to the construction authority, we started to pay more attention to it.1
Today the legendary firewall is safe and secured for your visit. For now.

Where: Grīzinķalns neighbourhood. A historical pre-war workers suburb that has maintained its looks and charm and is right on the age of another superb subcultural realm - the Avoti neighbourhood.
How: We suggest browsing all suburbs by bikes, although any main public transportation can take you close to them.
What else: Visit the nearby Grīziņparks and Ziedoņdārzs - both fantastic parks, and don't miss a rat mural to the right before entering Ziedoņdārzs from Sparģeļu street 7. Most definitely visit the legendary "Saule, Pērkons, Daugava" mural, standing tall nearby since 2014 as the largest mural in the Baltics in Tallinas street 50!

What do you think  - is this LADA ad worth the fuss?

1 Aizkrāsot vai atstāt seno «Ladas» reklāmu Krāsotāju ielā.