Factory VEF building and VEF palace of culture
Have you ever heard of the famous spy camera Minox? Yes, this was one of the first inventions produced by the Republic of Latvia’s industrial giant - Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika (State Electrotechnical Factory, VEF).
The company was established in April of 1919, but was renamed VEF in 1932. Electrical engineer Teodors Vītols (1888-1948) was appointed the director of the factory, while Alberts Jekste (1908-1987) was the head of planning and designs. He participated in the creation of many VEF radios, navigation radios, cinema projectors etc., and later established the VEF optics department. He was also entrusted to create the first professional sound studio for cinema and documentary films. In 1934, VEF opened up its own trade and vocational school, which educated and prepared the factory’s specialists. One of the main items produced by VEF in the 1930s were wireless radios. At the international exhibitions in Brussels in 1935 and Paris in 1937, VEF radio received the Grand Prix. By the end of the 1930s, VEF was not just the largest electrotechnical company in Latvia, but in the whole of the Baltics. In addition to radios, VEF also produced cinema projectors, electricity meters, wind generators, ship and aircraft radios, batteries, pocket flashlights, light bulbs, irons, vacuum cleaners, electric heaters, water pumps, boat and automobile engines, weights, telephones, switchboards, photo cameras, and even sport aircraft. And of course, the miniature photo camera Minox, which the company produced from 1939 to 1942. Back then, the camera was a real revolution in the world of photo camera production, as it was the smallest photo camera produced at the time. Because of its size, it soon became a very popular tool for spy agencies around the world. During WWII, the factory was devastated and plundered, and parts were even deliberately blown up. However, after the war the plant was rebuilt and became the main supplier of electronics and communications equipment for the Soviet military. In 1999 the factory was privatized and reorganized, and today countless offices are located in its restored premises.
VEF Palace of Culture
Ropažu Iela 2
In 1960, the VEF Palace of Culture, designed by architect Nikolai Sementsov (1915-1988) opened its doors in Riga across the street from the VEF factory. The building’s main objective to this day is to host various choirs, ensembles, orchestras, dance and theater troupes, art studios etc. Over 40 amateur collectives call this place home at the moment. In 2017, the building was completely renovated and reconstructed, with most of its Soviet-era architectural details also preserved to maintain its authenticity.