Competition entry | Vilnius
Perhaps we should start by recognizing that this project is special not only in terms of its size or the importance of its location. This project naturally has to touch on several vital topics that are not immediately related: the social aspect, rethinking the problem of the institutional image, shaping up more than just economic or ecological sustainability criteria, and forecasting the perspective.
A new generation has grown up with a mindful attitude towards the environment around them, a critical assessment, and a responsible, honest value system. The future quarter is being created precisely for this generation, so it is important that its formation corresponds to a progressive worldview; after all, bureaucracy and institutions [in the good sense of the word] receive people's trust and in return must meet our expectations.
Lithuania, together with Europe, is on the path of green construction and the creation of a sustainable environment. Vilnius aims to become a climate-neutral city. However, in people's mundane lives, responsibility towards the environment has long been a natural reflex, a lot of attention is being paid to it, sometimes even more than required by any standards or rules. Thus, one of the important goals of the project emerges from this notion: how to create a standard of environmental responsibility and strengthen trust in the public sector through architectural means.
For now, institutions often dwell on a legacy that is inefficient and irrationally used. The old ministerial and institutional structures that will be located here must fall into new hands, which will further re-inspire these buildings. Therefore, we see this project not only for ministries in this quarter but also for their former buildings, which will acquire new functions and relevancy and create new values for Vilnius.
Before starting to research the urban and architectural themes of this project, it is important for us to name an ambition that would define the guidelines rather strategically than architecturally, would accompany the solutions and become the key value of the project.
This project aims to establish the following basic principles:
First and foremost: openness. Both spatially and emotionally, the opening of the quarter would make it more people-friendly, more active, create an inviting image, and have a more harmonious character.
Another important idea is the active connection between the city and the river. This project must be used as a tool to bring city life closer to the less active left bank of the Neris River.
And one of the most important and difficult tasks is to form a new institutional image that would replace the established cold and restricted relationship of bureaucratic buildings with people. Success in this ambition would not only build trust in institutions but also encourage progressive people not to be afraid to choose a career in the public sector.
The urban goal of this project is a harmonious integration into the city structure and an appropriate relationship with the important spatial elements surrounding the area. The project's aim is to give meaning to the destroyed historical layer and actualize it within the quarter. The building layout and traffic links are shaped by the historical directions of Lukiškių and Mohametonų streets, as well as the territory of the Tatar cemetery, where an open square is planned. Neither underground nor above-ground construction is planned within the boundaries of the former cemetery.
When forming new and reshaping existing building volumes, the facade outline of Goštauto Street and the silhouette of New Town [Naujamiestis] are examined. Hither emerges the idea to respond to the bend of the Neris River and Goštauto Street, just as the building of the National Gallery of Arts on the other side of the river responds to it in return.
The height of the buildings rises from the side of Goštauto Street towards the VILNIAS VARTAI complex, and the block has one vertical accent—a building inside the block. Since this building is the vertical dominant in the complex, we suggest considering the possibility of establishing non-governmental organisation [NGO] offices here, thus further emphasizing the principle of open institutions and transparent democracy.
The openness that comes from the general idea of the project also shapes the urban thought of the quarter; it opens in all directions. The volumes of the existing buildings are also divided, thus creating a scale of volumes close to the character of the new town (Naujamiestis), rather than the character of the Soviet-era avenue.
The architectural idea of the project is a continuation of the urban concept. The architecture of the buildings is designed to express their volumes, not their facades.
We want to maintain a unified character throughout the block, so only a few architectural structures are planned, which are replicated in different settings of the plot.
Those few architectural morphotypes are gallery-like, linear, and single-point [accent] buildings. Their entirety forms the perimeter of the block, and the point volume creates the vertical dominant.
Concise and modest are the facades of the buildings. Through architecture, we create the image of institutions. Unlike before, the cold and restricted characters of institutions are being replaced by an accessible and overt image. The “fabric“ of the outer shell of the buildings is warm and transparent.
Wooden facades are provided for newly designed buildings, contrary to the mineral plaster that would be used for reconstructed buildings. This way, you can feel the eras of architecture and understand the development periods of the quarter.
Another important principle is that public space is of the utmost importance. Buildings become a part of public space, not the other way around. The buildings are open to the public through the open first (ground) floors; public space is integral to the interior of the buildings central atriums, green balconies, etc.