Margarita Kaučikaitė ©Julija Rukas

Margarita Kaučikaitė

Interviewed by Agnė Sadauskaitė

Photograped by Julija Rūkas

Translated by Kristina Žiemytė

You can live even for 20 years in the city and not realise the magic of it. I remember, Vilnius looked like have already been viewed over, but then, I visited Kazys Varnelis museum: the collision of two gothic facades in the painter studio forced me to stop and breathe deeply for a moment from the excitement. I realised, there are so many buildings just waiting to be acknowledged, only then, the city of Vilnius will be fully knowable. Why do I talk about this? During the spring, the door opens easier, and this is for the OpenHouse Vilnius, second year in a row April’s event. Margarita is one of the event’s organisers. Through the keyhole, we look to the OpenHouse, its buildings and (post)modernism, and chat with Margarita Kaučikaitė, architect, Archfond’s volunteer and part of the OpenHouse Vilnius developers.

Does the Lithuanian version of OpenHouse follows already certified show’s milestones? Alternatively, is it, in case of Vilnius, looking for different solutions?

OpenHouse Vilnius is the part of international OpenHouse franchise. All cities and participants refer the same idea, except the distinction of building’s list formation: how many and what kind of buildings should be involved and how to organise the flow. Usually the time-period do not restrict the OpenHouse, although, in the city of Vilnius, we wanted to start from the bottom and develop systematically. On the other hand, we evaluated Lithuania context: the antique culture is understood better than XX-XXI centuries. Namely, last-mentioned period was chosen as the least acknowledged and attained the most of criticism (soviet architecture is mostly named as ‘monsters’, and the nowadays – ‘jars’). These are the periods, which have many clichés. So, in the first year, the list were made, trying to reveal the city of Vilnius character, emphasising the XX-XXI centuries architecture.

In 2015, there was the list of 70 buildings, Lithuanian’s architects and architecture historians were rating these buildings, also suggesting the choice of their one. By creating the first year’s program’s list, we had chosen 30 buildings. In 2016, 9 members of the group created the list. We evaluated the previous year’s competitors success, by that we gathered 20 ‘old’ ones and 20’new’ ones. Where there few buildings, by which the owners wanted to be involved in the event. We didn’t restrict on the time-period, where there few old buildings from XIX century. The formation of the list is one of the most interesting and exciting stages of the event, it’s some sort of a creation. It is not final and the pretty buildings are essentially endless.

The distinction of OpenHouse Vilnius could be recognized for the individual and special tour preparation. Exactly for this reason, many of volunteer’s squad is attracted to help on the weekend, more than 300 people. In the big cities as London or Barcelona, the building is just visited, examined, there is no tours, as in Vilnius, the content of the building is arranged with the organisers, mentors and volunteers. Just saying, in Barcelona, the volunteers are fathered only for the building’s supervision and commanding people flow.

Margarita Kaučikaitė ©Julija Rukas

This year the ‘forefather’s’ Lithuanian writers union’s building was involved to the event and still paint smelling Basanavičiaus 9A complex. Still, the biggest part of the event is composed of soviet-period buildings. Last-mentioned still drag tail of boring and poky architecture. What do you think, after visiting these buildings do people start to love them more and try to understand or at least, accept it?

I strongly hope the viewpoint is changing. I am certain that by entering into the building, no matter how strange and terrible it can look, when you hear it’s idea, you start to look at the building from the different angle. I was tutoring ministry of national defence, to be precise, it’s part of postmodernism period, styled in 1997. When we want to ‘inspire’ more trust for the building and knowing that the employees of the building judge it negatively, saying it is comfortless, dark and cold building, we arranged the tour with Lada Merkejevaite, professor’s and building’s architect’s Elena Nijolė Bučiūtė daughter. After the tour, employees were very amazed and enjoyably surprised. This building is one of those, which needs to be accosted, by not knowing it’s history, and the dormant detailed idea, you may not even fully understand the building.

I appreciate soviet architecture, because it is modern’s architecture ‘pioneer’. In that type of architecture the same ground rules are used, ‘one step’ from what we have now. I do not relate soviet architecture with ideology: I am human of epoch and I can look to it dissociating from time-period. The best examples are: The Parliament palace, Lithuanian Composers’ Union, The Drama Theatre, The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, – first of all, these are architecture’s creations, designed in Vilnius, revealing international architecture’s features, not ideology. Forced cliché ‘concrete monsters’ is maybe for those times used material.

Jointly, we can recall the story about E. V. Čekanauskas, then he designed Composers’ Union, he carried cactuses from his wife house, only because he wanted to create something spectacular.

Yes, maybe he was short on material, but surely not on creativity, enthusiasm, flight and talent. Surely, where was economical limitation. When you hear stories, you look at the buildings very differently. The value have risen by chatting with exceptional architects. During soviet period, there was only a few architects, they made small community and were the ones with the clear awareness of worth, by designing in Vilnius, they designed for Vilnius, not for themselves.

Mostly I was cooperating with Algimantas Mačiulis, who can be named as his generation chronicler. For the 20-30 years he worked in VDU as a professor, during this period he gathered the material about that time’s-period architects and artists. He is the one who has the most material and knows everything! (laughs). Mačiulis tells the stories like from the fairy-tale about architects and buildings, with great respect, managing to exclude the key features.

There about V. E. Čekanauskas, Mačiulis once said – he is the best architect of their generation, for the conceptual, excellent architecture implement’s control. Mačiulis always emphasises A. and V. Nasvyčiai environment’s sensitivity and architecture’s modesty. The city of Vilnius ideas are encoded in their buildings. For Vilnius city inherent structure shape street-bromine-yard are framed in their buildings. It can be noticed in The Drama Theatre, The Parliament, and Central Post Office. In the parliament, which is designed in 1982, ancient forum’s structure is latent, symbolising the democracy, the option and the freedom.

Stories like these bring awareness and love to the soviet architecture.

How do you value in XXI century designed buildings?

The Soviet-period buildings have their own romance sense. The new ones have different charge. They reflect one’s time-period and ideas. The brand new buildings do not have their own events, details, their focus is in the architecture.

Margarita Kaučikaitė ©Julija Rukas

There is a lot of architecture’s heritage in Vilnius, which is strictly regulated. We can see how  architecture is used numbly, which new buildings are confirmed, even painted graffiti, sometimes give different conclusions, that we aren’t clearly understanding it as our environment and our home’s part. Maybe the respect for the building and its context, and history, is the real subject of heritage? What do you think is architecture heritage?

In my mind, the heritage is buildings, construction,  valuable by their architecture, which have bright time-period feature. For example, the postmodernism buildings, which were designed during the beginning of independence, were the reflection of these days tendency, their time-period. If you look up to the soviet architecture as to some kind of artwork, heritage concept expands. It seems to me that modern architecture is heritage, if only we understand heritage as buildings, which are valuable for their created purpose, which do not need to be ‘changed’.

When the person starts to explore the buildings, he also explores the environment, architecture and, maybe for one reason or another, begins to think differently about their own designed houses; they may start preferring quality, function and convenience.

For example, what about new business centre K29, which was included in OpenHouse?

I think it can be included in heritage. If architectural heritage is city’s property, then K29 is city’s heritage. Looking many years in the future, K9 won’t be out of style and will reflect its time-period. If by any chance there won’t be Vilnius Gates Business Centre, the city would suffer. The K29 and SCIN (Science communication and information centre in Saulėtekis, Vilnius) are the time-period reflections, already. I have been visited Le Corbusier buildings, which are considered to be massive city‘s worth. There are separately marked facades material, colours, designed architecture is valuable and charitable. Sadly, that kind of viewpoint  Lithuania is not valuable. I hope that in the future it will change.

Let’s try to fantasise about the future. How do you see Vilnius in 20years? Are there any peepers trying to get in building’s inward?

I am optimistic, because I see the viewpoint of my generation. The really big part of the people raise a big expectations. The din of the controversial municipality’s projects is starting because of young people mindset. So, I believe and hope that in some years, Vilnius will be released from architectural depression. I hope The city will reorganise cultural values itself and realise city’s value and attractiveness, and brings economical and mental benefit.

Margarita Kaučikaitė ©Julija Rukas

Paskelbta: December 30, 2017

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