Andrijana Filinaitė

Interviewed by Agnė Sadauskaitė

Photographed by Žilvinas Stravinskas

Translated by Gabija Seiliūtė

Recently, Kaunas city is in high spirits. In 2022, it will boast the title of European Capital of Culture and in 2020 it is planned to submit a nominative application to UNESCO World Heritage Site. Love and care for interwar buildings are increasing as well as worries about the responsibility of the status – the development of the city can often be put on hold by strict heritage protection requirements. However, UNESCO is not an enemy or “a monster”, says chief specialist of Cultural heritage department Adrijana Filinaitė with smile on her face.

You are one of the main initiators to arrange Kaunas´s application for a symbol of European heritage and to provide a preliminary interwar architecture application of Kaunas to UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kaunas is striving for an international recognition, although until 2010 its interwar architecture has attained only a few publications and researches, and was hardly popularized in the society.  What is the success story of Kaunas? Where have these initiatives begun?

Kaunas´s success story is being created by people who love their city, work in it, are active and have a genuine interest in joining the initiatives to improve it. The interwar architecture has always been near us, but until 2014 (once an interest in this period and its objects has started to grow) many people did not believe that this hidden gem could be interesting to Europe and to the rest of the world. The initiative for the symbol of European heritage was born in the department of cultural heritage and the department of culture of Kaunas city Municipal administration.

The outstanding architectural objects, presented in application for European heritage symbol, are scattered around almost the entire Kaunas city, while in the preliminary file, Naujamiestis district is mentioned as a protected area. None of these documents mention any specific boundaries of protection. Which territories are being planned to be included? Is there a plan of protecting separate neighborhoods, and not a whole territory?

The Symbol of European heritage is a “soft” project which is more oriented into dissemination of cultural heritage and retention of memory and recollection. This initiative is to estimate locations, having a symbolic value to Europe and having played an important role in a general creation of Europe´s history. In the Unesco nominative file which is being prepared, we will have to define clear and specific territories and protected areas. All the plans are being considered, however it is upon the experts whether these will be separate objects, quarters, or maybe an entire territory.


Could you name the main problems of cultural heritage management?

The main heritage management problems are the processes which are too slow, strict heritage protection rules, an over expanded register of cultural heritage, inter institutional communication and often an overlapping of functions (I mean the units of heritage protection and Department of Cultural Heritage), and a lack of dialogue with communities. In this case, Kaunas leads an example – both in collaboration with the communities and in its approach to heritage processes. Kaunas´s municipality is the first, and so far the only one in Lithuania to have a heritage management program and allocating budget for its realization (2017 – 1 million Euros). It is notable that this amount has significantly increased since 2015, when the allocated budget for heritage management was 29 000 Euros.

During the Kaunas Book Fair, architecturologist Vaidas Petrulis has said that “ Kaunas is the city with 1000 faces of modernism”, suggesting that the architecture of the period is manifold, therefore various approaches can be taken for its presentation. What will be or is the main narrative of interwar architecture in Kaunas?

I absolutely agree with my colleague’s Vaidas Petrulis opinion. The main narrative of interwar architecture in Kaunas is a modern capital, whose development was inspired by the modernist style of 1930´s, which has gained momentum and spread across the whole world during a particularly short time. The multi-faced and multi-layered Kaunas city can be presented from various points: the city can be positioned as a multi-cultural place, which in 1937 was inhibited by 25,5% Jewish people, 3,9% Polish, 3,3% German and 3,3 % Russian people. All of them have created Lithuania. Kaunas city narrative also reflects the city´s brightness, cleanliness, cultivating physical culture and natural environment of the city. It was being cultivated and started happening already during the interwar, and its continuation is felt today. An integral part of the city´s narrative – representation and defining of political spaces, a hint of diplomacy. A new city, which developed rapidly. Here, we can also draw a parallel to nowadays – Kaunas is a rapidly growing city.


Inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List has both negative and positive influence: representation of the city, establishing its prestige, but also interfering with the development of the city due to various restrictions.  What kind of influence, in your opinion, enlisting would make to Kaunas?

The enlisting to UNESCO World Heritage list will undoubtedly make only good influence to the city. Besides your aforementioned points such as the representation of the city and raising its prestigious status, there is also an element of attracting tourists. The enlisting to UNESCO has certain limitations but there is no need to perceive it as a “dragon”, coming to harm everyone. Joining my latter thought with KEKS2022, the “dragon” has to domesticated and befriended. Heritage is not a barrier, it is an opportunity. And, as a world-class expert Jad Tabet has said, “The status of the World Heritage does not suppose to stop the urban development”.


Paskelbta: December 30, 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *