Published on May 16, 2016 8:08 am


“The impossible is achieved through scientific knowledge. “

Professor Hilbig, Gustav Ferdinand Alexander (1822-1887), Riga



The rapid development of the city turned Riga into a major industrial center of the Baltics in the middle of the 19th century. (Riga was third biggest city of the Russian Empire at that time.) It was a major factor, why it was decided to establish an institution – Riga Polytechnic that educate highly skilled engineers in different fields. Already from the very beginning the school emerged as an innovative, multidisciplinary and international high school that was founded and financed by the local community of Riga’s citizens, Riga Stock exchange committee, Vidzemes, Kurzemes and Estonian Knighthood, as well as it was financed by subsidies from other Governments of Baltic cities.

The aim was to introduce a new model of the Community led education and scientific research that would help to address the challenges related to the rapid urban growth in cities around the Baltic Sea. The focus of the academic doctrine was set on high quality scientific research combined with practice led research. This model was created as an alternative to the one employed in the rest of the Russian Empire at that time. Later on this model was recognized as a role model for the other similar institutes established in the Russian Empire. The highest education and research standards where developed greatly contributing to the European academic tradition of that time.

From the beginning the implementation of the study programmes in Riga were carried out by invited international professors from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and UK. Later on the new generation of local professors educated in the school where following the footsteps of their predecessors and undertook the organization of the academic and pedagogic process.

The Riga school of architecture had produced high quality architects which consequently have created the famous Riga city architecture and urban planning (the end of the 19th century beginning of the 20th century) as we know it today. In 1997 the historical Riga City center – its urban structure and architecture was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

In 1863 Gustav Ferdinand Alexander Hilbig (1822- 1887) arrived in Riga from Krefeld, The Kingdom of Prussia. Later he was invited to serve as Professor of Building Arts by the newly established Riga Polytechnic, which later became Riga Polytechnical Institute (RPI). When the Department of Architecture was opened there in 1869, he became the first Dean of the Faculty.

Hilbig was an architect educator and visionary. As an educator he was advocating for the innovative, technological advancement combined with respect to tradition and knowledge of the past. He has emphasized the importance of the holistic approach either to architecture training or practice. G. Hilbig also published innovative theoretical works on subjects of architectural style and building arts in the 19th century.

Gustav Ferdinand Alexander Hilbig was born In Breslau (24.10.1822). He studied architecture in Berliner Bauakademie (1846-52). He gained his practical architectural training as an assistant of Friedrich August Stüler taking part in planning and construction of the Neues Museum in Berlin.

As an architect he has built several significant public buildings in Krefeld and Riga. Among the most important ones are the new building of the Polytechnikum in Riga (1866-69). The Polytechnikum (later University) building was one of the first public buildings built according the new master plan of the Riga city center developed by architect and urban planner J.D. Felsko. His second greatest contribution to the urban development of the Riga city was St. Paul’s cathedral (1887) he has designed and built together with his son Herman Otto Hilbig (1860–1939). The cathedral buildings was planned and built in the outskirts of the Riga city for the working class neighborhood in Grīziņkalns.

Professor Gustav Hilbig, died in Riga (8.2.1887).