“JUMIS” and the traditional wooden architecture in Latvia


“JUMIS” is one of the projects of the “North House” wooden frame holiday homes. // Area 55.5 m2 // More info: Jumis

The 2018 year is going by Latvia’s one hundred year sign by creating a loto f different projects with a popular hashtag #LV100. Inspiring by wooden houses, wooden carcass houses, wooden prefabricated houses, modular houses, wooden carcass panel houses building traditions in Latvia, its thoroughness and nowadays Latvian people desires for a calm recreation place, “North House” is created wooden carcass weekend house typical project Jumis”. It is a wooden carcass of wooden carcass prefabricated house with a distinct roof harness in the shape of the Jumis. The presence of the national consciousness is evidenced by the double Jumis sign created by the roof of the wooden frame house and the design of a stable, safe building.

In case of country’s one hundred jubilees, there’s been raised a question – what kind of house is that real “Latvian house”? What is so unique and what is the view of Latvian’s opinion of a definition “houses”?

It’s been a long time ago since in a subconscious of a  human there was a pride for his own place, own house, own corner, where to hide. For Latvian is significant to create an asylum for himself and his family, livestock and for the crop handling and storage. Nowadays, such buildings as a barn, are transformed into a garage where to keep the equipment in place of the former livestock. When you have to answer the question, what is a real Latvian house, why does its building happens this way, not any other, then you have found the explanation through the folklore and the impression of the traditions and national consciousness. Despite that nowadays in the impression of technologies folklore, mythology and ethnography may appear as something very far, strange and old-fashioned, in a subconscious there are ideas and myths are those that create the concept of “home”. And, as interesting it could be, in case of a new patriotic level in Latvia, with Latvian one hundred years events, with , with the Song and Dance Celebration, with every manufacturer who puts into his product “Latvian”, “ancestral heritage” or any Latvian mark, to be a Latvian in fashion.

Log house at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum // Photo: Fotolia

Latvian’s house in the history of the twists

The road to the Latvian dorm and the private house has been swirling and full of difficulties. A typical Latvian house is usually a log-timbered house or a wooden house, not a brick building. The history of Latvia’s home in the territory of Latvia dates from the period before the 13th century, where the main task was to occupy and settle the first free land. In the period from the 13th to 18th centuries, with gradual obedience to the Order of Swords (German/Teutonic), there was also a phased abandonment of the ownership of the birth of the family, and the complete transfer of the land and its existing houses to the hands of German nobility. Manor houses, churches, public buildings in the construction come in with a German-style masonry, stone utilization. 19th – At the beginning of the 20th century, there is a gradual path to the full recovery of the owner of the dwelling, although the free part of the owner remains only in the 1920s – 1930s.

It is interesting to observe, how in the result of the different historians has been changed the ownership of agricultural land between manors and farmland, thereby promoting or, conversely, stopping the construction of private houses. For comparison: around the year 1500 – 90% and 10% (manors), 75% and 25% (manors) of 1688, before the 1920s, 39% and 48% (manors), 1963 -2% and 98% (kolkhozes). The most of prosperity in a building of a Latvian wooden house was the Agrarian reform in 1920, where farmers own 95% of agricultural land. Consequently, everyone had the opportunity to get to their homes, their land and premises, promoting the construction of more than hundreds of new fences, filling the glowing dream of their “home”, a “home” of their own, mostly by building estates. Although the new, wide possibilities created various variants of private house construction, they also built country houses, which stylistically continued the tradition of Latvian countryside, allowing architects and builders to engage with up-to-date innovations.

The Kolkhoz period (from 1940 to 1990) is characterized by unsuccessful efforts to eliminate farmsteads and increase the interest in the construction of apartment houses and villages, leaving t.s. “Soviet-era heritage” in the widely used concrete material.

Along with the regaining of Latvia’s national independence (1991), there were resolved an Agrarian reform by restoring ownership of denationalized property (wooden houses, wooden prefabricated houses, modular houses, wooden carcass panel houses). Of course, it didn’t resolve financial problems by renovating lowered housing, so, that an attempt was made to settle and integrate a part of the farm’s restored farmhouse was part of the property that was sold either by continuing to live in a narrow apartment or by setting up cottages instead of land for sale to large farms.

Log building in light shades // Photo: repair-guides.com

The feeling of houses

The feeling of the house, the feeling of the present is that, after which tends every human. Not for nothing, when building a house or arranging a room, one of the most common requirements is to make it “cozy“. Whether it would be a feeling of happiness, or peace, or, on the contrary, anxiety, all is based on the living space appropriate to the inner world of a human being. Consequently, “coziness” will always be a concept that does not have a definition of performance. (Wooden houses) The classic saying “One likes mother, the other daughter, the other – the dress” perfectly matches it, because one good one, the other may not be good enough or even worth considering.

The feeling of the house can be perceived wider, thinking about not only an area, but as a whole universe by including both even smaller interior things and a house construction, and a place near the house – an environment of the house (garden). Because the feeling of a home is related to belonging, to be “your own” and “among” ones, belong to a certain circle of people, society, nation, certain nations, languages, and the state. The not can be continued. (Panel house) A great example of the present is a situation, when foreign or coming from trips back and hearing the Latvian language, you feel something special. It is knowledgeable, it is understandable, it is safe. “It is yours”.

The building of the house as creating of the world

Where did the “raft holidays” come from? It is understandable that, as soon as the rafts are laid upon the house, a crown is placed at the point of contact, thus symbolizing the “rafting feasts” taking place in the house. Over the course of time, the rest of the rituals have disappeared in the construction of a new building, but in the past, there was not much.

As the traditional construction in the Latvian imaginations resembles the creation of a new world, ritual activities and celebrations were included in the construction process.

One of the rituals is placing of the first corner, where, if nowadays is called as insertion of the cornice of placing of foundations then in the past with special techniques it was discovered whether the chosen lifting place was valid, what would be the life of the house. If the selected place was valid, it was confirmed by (wooden prefabricated houses) with a special substance or case, placed in each corner of the building and attributing the defenses, thus protecting from penetration of harmful forces.

Placing of the foundations, first placing of the beam crown (wooden houses, prefabricated houses), the climbing of the wings, the completion of the lifting work was celebrated, decorating them with flowers and medicinal wreaths, thus strengthening the completion of each concrete stage of the building.

Every building was important for rituals. The ritual not only attributes magic abilities, but it is based on a successful after-house exploitation. For example, home building work (panel house) had to be launched and completed at certain times – putting the first crown house on the morning side and on a sunny day, but ending the house trying to move in the old and new months. Thus, unwanted energy (evil forces) could be avoided, with the aim of maintaining the building for a long time and preventing trees from rotting.

Courland Farm // Photo: visc.gov.lv

The vicinity of the house and placing of buildings

The same, as nowadays, earlier times fitting out started with a ground property fitting out. In the past, this started with the landing (land clearing of the forest, shrubs), preparation for gardening, meadow or home furnishings and limitation of territory with a fence. Traditionally, a Latvian yard was enclosed with a sieve (sieve or hollow fence), including three gates, and even giving them names – the mountain gates that led to the rooms; the lower gate, or the livestock gate, and the gate of the field, which were to be used for the crops.

Planting flowers and trees around the house and the garden ensured the protection of the householder and the house itself, as well as indicated (a wooden house) about the public situation. Meanwhile, it was also important for the tree-trees to be planted at their own homes, which avoided planting. Leaf trees were allowed to be planted at home – most often linden and pebbles. The oak avoided planting close to the house to prevent lightning from being in the house. The idea of the importance of planting trees is still preserved: the birch is planted for the protection of the house, the linden and the oak are planted at the time of the birth of a child, respectively, a girl (linden) or a bride (oak, less often a part or birch). Skujėnai did not come to the house not only because they were pricked with needles, but also because they were associated with the greening of the cemetery.

In placing of the building Latvians were led by the concrete environment and vicinity conditions. A safe haven for a residential building was considered a hill, a mountain, the highest place in the property.

The house should have been close to water sources (river, lake, sea). It was important that the trees (panel house) did not grow so close to the house that it would cover the daylight and the entrance of sunlight into the room; It was also important how the building was placed in relation to the sun (It is in line with modern perception – with the principle of a passive house – the home location (eco-houses) so that as much sunlight as possible gets inside).

Despite that there were no any restrict, how to build houses and place necessary housing in the yard, it is checked out, what are the nature conditions, which are the prevailing winds, so that the smell of the barn does not come into a dwelling house (wooden folding house) or to prevent the fire from the bathhouse being transmitted to other buildings in the fire.

The building’s distance from the road was consciously kept high to avoid strangers, uninvited guests or thieves. The center of the estate was made up of a residential building, which was located near a barn (storage facility) and a livestock barn. These buildings (wooden frame houses) were built close by, providing attention in the event of hazards. Fireproof buildings – the lawn and the sauna were located farthest from the center of the farmstead. In any case, the dwelling house was designed as a center of the garden, subordinating the other buildings so that the living building could overlook the whole of the building while respecting the location of the dining areas and the water distance (sauna).

How does were built houses earlier?

Nowadays, if it is meant to build a new house (panel house, wooden carcass house, wooden house, prefabricated house, carcass house, wooden prefabricated house, modular house, wooden carcass panel house), without a designer it wasn’t possible to do. What was possible in earlier times? As far as usually wooden (wooden carcass houses) buildings were built by owners hands, the answer is in traditions because the building house (wooden carcass panel house) the sense of proportion and the skills of the practitioner have been passed down from generation to generation, while sons are observing fathers in action. Buildings (wooden frame houses) were built on the basis of practical examples from the previous centuries (wood) and the use of building tools that fit their age. A long time ago the builder of the house were men. Women had to do other things – spinning, weaving, knitting, fire burning, etc.

The project (building of the private house) in nowadays comprehension is since 19 century first part by saving a tendency to build houses by your own. Until that time, the construction of houses and farmsteads (wooden houses) determined the practical needs and possibilities that should be built first, which then, with the main principle, made “no hesitation” – since the Latvian farm was built not for one generation but for future generations.

What the practitioner has to know?

To build a house in earlier times, it wasn’t enough of mechanic building work skills. The practitioner is the person, who choose the place of the building and knows the odd location (popularly referred to as the turning point).

During a period of time from the enclosed world, it became more and more open to the outside. In contemporary architectural (project) perception the term “open planning” is most often used. The spaciousness, transparency, and modernity of the premises are decisive for building houses (wooden houses) today. In contrast, in traditional construction, the emphasis is on the legacy of mythical antiquity, where the connection with the outside world is made as close as possible, by closing the shutters, log houses, wooden houses and the building away from the road.


Slitter // Photos: visc.gov.lv

Living area

Until the moment somebody has to draw a room, a human automatically draws a square. Despite this fact, in earlier times the area was rounded, people built slitter type houses (individual project) (primitive cone-shaped structures with a circular floor plane). Later slitter becomes as a summer area for the farmers, who live in a smoke bar and the living cases, where they during the summer period could cook, wash linen and other works; hearths are built in the middle of the room. When people set four heavenly directions in the heavens, they acquired a closed microcosm and replaced the gutters against the rectangular log buildings.

Colors in a Latvian’s housing

When talking about Latvian wooden house (individual wooden house) use of colors, it is possible to say, that mostly they weren’t.  Paintings can be spoken from Courland Duchy times and in Kurzeme region. For a long time, the house was in gray color, which was obtained for wood (wood), naturally losing the original yellow-white hue. Although gray is not considered to be a particularly striking color, to say the least, it becomes an outstanding backdrop for the glamor of the countryside and the variability of the surrounding landscape.

No matter how dark and nowadays it is related to the negative aspect, the black color was used or simply naturally formed in the living rooms during the smokestacks, t.s. black baths and tar bases and so on. tricks

The meaning of “pure” and “sleek” was associated with white in antiquity. The white color was associated with the habit of wrapping stickers with white chalk during a solstice, and later attempting to paint the window frame of the houses with white. Later, when they began to paint the ceiling, they were most often voted white, bright.

Limited use red or brownish red tone, mostly used in decorative diamond outer doors, roof tiles (roofing) (the fairly large rarity, more penthouses, not log cabins) and sometimes in the doorway to the buildings. Extremely ornamented doors were in Kurzeme, decorated with red, white, less often black color. The reddish, pink tone was noticeable to the tents, the thing that arose from the natural colors of clay used for decoration (wooden houses). A wide range of gray to red was used for the use of boulders in construction.

Before and after World War II, the coloration of wooden country houses paved with boards was introduced, most often in brown (link to ground) or yellow (the desire for a feeling of sunshine).

The “Dižlīķi” barn door in the Ethnographic Museum. // Photo: zudusilatvija.lv


The decorations of the houses – walls, (wooden houses), doors and pillars – have traditionally been decorated with Latvians in the minimalist style, geometric shapes. Since it was believed that signs that are cut, dipped or simply stained can be protected, they are used deliberately, in a certain order and in places where “it is constructively justified, the viewer comes well-seen and indeed the impression of a dense building (wooden frame house).” [1]

For buildings ornaments, poles (so-called tiled deck ornaments), doors, window frames and windows (in the form of carvings), borders and also shutters (if any), bat roof supports (porch columns), roof can (horses, cranes or gooseberries), less common in the beams, on fences.

On the contrary, there were invisible signs that were concealed in the eyes of those who came and in the houses of the houses (inside) to protect the building from external threats.

What signs in building ornaments were most used? These were more or less stylized characters – sloping crosses, triangles, sunsets, zalcas characters, diamonds and the cross of the Lithuanian (which is the most commonly used one). Nowadays, the well-known open-air building (construction of individual houses) has become much newer in-house decorations.
When marking the house in the projecting door, they tried to build a house on the eastern side. It is still important today to come and go and close the door because it is polite. Why was it so important in antiquity? Because the door was left open was perceived as a home-made and hacker’s harm, and from the early age children were taught to close the door close behind. Not only the signs but also the branches of the branches were used for protection, with them decorating the houses of the house in Jāņa. Sometimes a high fence was enclosed around the house in order to prevent a comrade from seeing the door of a house (wooden house). How is it nowadays? Each landowner wants to separate his property with a shed (prefabricated wooden houses), a fence or, worst case, with a hedge. In the Catholic region of Latgale, icons were secured inside the houses. If today we are looking for a sign or symbol that is widely used to protect homes, then it might be a sign: “Caution! This raging dog!” Or “Property is guarded …”. It’s nothing if the dog is not there or if the security company does not provide home security, the key is the use of the mark itself.

A sample of modern log cabins with reed roofs in Amatciems. // Photo: amatciem.lv

What is the traditional roof covering for Latvian homes? For centuries, natural materials (roofing) were used – reeds, straw, chips, and lime (long, broad strips torn from pine bark). Roof coverings traditionally arose from materials found in the surrounding area (roof materials) – in grain-producing regions – straw, near rivers and lakes – reeds, and in the vicinity of forests – ceiling rooftops. Such roofs were a good, breathable material (wooden houses), but with a relatively short lifespan and flammable. (Nowadays, manufacturers have positioned such roofs for up to 100 years.) Later clay tile or tile roofing began to be used, which is gradually replaced by a tin roof tile.
Roof ornament: roofing horses, cocks, horses, usually painted on a rooftop with two, used both with decorative and magical – protective function.
The original home defense function has been lost over time. Instead of small, narrow, shuttered windows, widespread windows for the width and height of the wall (individual home project). Sometimes even curtains that do not allow you to look inside the house are not even used. Only the function of protecting the inhabitants from cold or heat and purely decorative function is to show others how “I live”, even if it means to put all your lips “on the palm of your hand”.

Latvian and tree
Houses in construction (wooden houses) traditionally use the material that is the easiest, most accessible in the particular area. Therefore, it is understandable why, if you are talking about a “Latvian house”, you have to talk about wooden houses, wooden architecture (house projects). Wood (wood) has been and is the most accessible material for construction of houses in Latvia (wooden houses). So much is said about the feeling of coziness, warmth, and ecology of the wood, and indeed it is – a skillful wooden log house built by the master serves even longer than some good stone houses. As time goes by, various technological innovations (wooden frame houses) are adopted, including in the construction of houses, with the increasing number of masonry and other material buildings entering the urban environment. Wood architecture continues to occupy its place not only for practical reasons but also precisely because of subconscious ideas – as a symbol of heat, coziness, safety.

Recent studies have shown the beneficial effects of plants, especially trees, on humans. // Photo: awaken.com

What is it and what is it about? For Latvian, we can call the sense of beauty that comes from tradition, “they have been preserved for a long time by their or other forms and the combination of their separate elements.” [2] Therefore, when speaking about Latvians in construction, the log house (wooden houses) with inclined reed, straw or shingle roof, geometric ornaments in ornaments (wooden house designs). This is a more traditional view of “Latvians”, but it may already be that Latvians is perceived in details, that it is associated with one another with the Latvian language in a stranger, one with Latvian writings in red-and-white scarlet scarves, while another one is singing Ligo songs every year on the most notable feasts – Midsummer .