The imposing yellow brick structure overlooking the Riga canal was built in the second half of the 19th century as the Riga Polytechnic Institute, a renowned educational institution where Nobel prize-winning chemist Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald (1853 - 1932) once taught. It later became the main building of the newly founded University of Latvia in 1919 and still serves this function today. The façade boasts the coats of arms of Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Estonia and its characteristic bricks were imported from England, while the massive granite foundations were quarried on the Danish island of Bornholm. The building also includes an events hall, a museum, a small planetarium (open September - May Thu 18:00; €2) and an astronomical observatory, which is open to the public for free from 19:00 - 21:30 on clear Thursday nights from October - March. Visitors should use the side stairs to the left or right as tradition requires that only graduates of the university and professors may use the central steps.