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Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis

Interviewed by Agnė Sadauskaitė

Photographed by Julija Rūkas

Translated by Kristina Žiemytė

One of the most heritage protection delights was interwar of the city of Kaunas architecture appreciation. It was acknowledge as the Europe heritage symbol and included in UNESCO design towns list. When the roll of the cultural process began, it quickly started to affect town’s community: Excursus started to operate; the city of Kaunas architecture guide was published. Currently there is a process of Kaunas interwar architecture UNESCO nomination case, in which, the main aim is to get in between worldwide most spectacular and exclusive heritage objects list. For a long time forgotten and uncherished interwar the city Kaunas heritage started to rose again. One of the reasons is Architecture and urban development centre (AUTC) in Kaunas. Casual heritage, community and of course – Kaunas, is discussed in the interview with the AUTC employee and KTU(Kaunas University of Technology) graduate student Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis.

The existing part of interwar Kaunas architecture is involved in Cultural valuables list, even though it became popular not so long ago, also about the city of Kaunas inclusion in UNESCO. In interwar period there was a catchword – “We won’t stop without Vilnius”, probably now, people of Kaunas could shout “We won’t stop without UNESCO”? Probably it is too difficult to tell, but, still, how did this process came to light and from there have you gathered your courage to establish this kind of idea?

The whole interwar way till UNESCO nomination has two sets of layers: first one is the acknowledgment of modern architecture, second one is Lithuanian national self-awareness formation. Even though interwar modern architecture in west was acknowledged, because of the Iron Curtain, for ages now, but in east Europe that process was paused for many of us known geopolitical reasons. Interwar capitalism history phase in east Europe was exactly the main scapegoat, which east unit’s propaganda tried to tender it in dark ways; it is not a surprise that architecture in these times was forgotten. Alongside it, the quite new, in these times, build couldn’t  pass the heritage evaluation criteria.

It is still pleasant that citizens of Kaunas are ones of those initial challengers who started talking about interwar architectural worth. Even though the city of Kaunas buildings are in the poor condition, they still take great place in people’s heart, people started to recognize cultural worth of it, differently from southeast Europe nations. Very important aspect is that all the people, who were responsible for this kind of architecture popularity, were very close, they collaborated from all sorts of subjects: academics, politics, society enthusiasm; they all found the main goal and gathered input to this phenomenon. In addition, that is how absolute contrast was formed. For example, in Budapest, there is only few enthusiasts’ who talks about interwar architecture, and bribed officers give away permits to demolish strange architecture. From that time on, was a long haul, from 80’s and 90’s decades joint when Jolita Kančienė was the first one to talk about interwar architecture’s importance.

Other matter – national self-awareness. Nation needs to have some sort of support, which can form nowadays identity. Like in the past, interwar was used as old system’s denationalizations scapegoat; now, it became the nearest object, which appeals here-and-now perception of from where we came from. Architecture is one of the strongest propaganda’s weapons, which we see and confront every day. By excluding modern architecture, the interwar buildings were built in our own nation, which keeps mostly frequent connections with our ancestors.

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Then the conversation take place about the Barcelona, the name pops into the head – Gaudi, then talking about Brussel – Hortos, and then about Brazil – Niemeyer. Whereas one architecture genius didn’t build Kaunas, it was built by many of them, so, it means that one of the advantage Kaunas faces, is integral city-view creation. What beside it makes city of Kaunas so exclusive?

I can separate two aspects. Firstly, Kaunas changes unrecognisably, from some kind of block, became similar to a town, at least worthy for ‘temporal capital’ name. exactly the modernism of Kaunas became this process main face. There is no other example in Europe’s history. Gdynia’s case is similar, but there couldn’t be found any nation centre; there were more creation than transformation city. The second aspect is, that architecture of Kaunas is far to be called ‘genuine’ modernism. From the modernism, mostly aesthetics decision and layout were taken; still, radical architecture structure and big urban transformations can nowhere be found. Organic, not radical changes appeared in modern view, affected our evaluation of our country’s buildings. Many forget that even Soviet apartments are modernistic, just better and more radical.

Frequently it seems that modern heritage do not talk unconsciously and in broad society’s part is preferable to submonotomy, monotony and mass production. Modern cities like Havro in France and White city in Israel (by the way, they are also listed in UNESCO), started ‘from the bottom’, community’s admission and understanding about how important their environment is worth of saving. Does the city of Kaunas also is the heritage protection of events accelerator?

For already mentioned reasons, negative connotation do not face the city of Kaunas modernism. Long soviet years, buildings nationalisation processes, disappearing aesthetics conception, unofficial nationality’s existent inhibition, determined that in our culture similar movements is noticeable only few plots, coherent to architecture and urbanism. Most old generation people were drilled that everything is spare through authority, and synthetic community was created by authority object, usually created to do even more damage. Over all, it is still a delight that we won’t need to wander around in the desert, for people to understand the environment they live in is their own concern. In Kaunas city case, we still needed initiative from academics, proactive human beings and politics help. When the community realise Kaunas can be modernistic, then our wealth and development process could be more horizontal. UNESCO nomination is very essential step in our community, most of us understand it as one of the highest evaluation ever. People feel acknowledged and appreciated. We need to remember, that in Lithuania basketball is loved from the claimed award in 1937 Europe championship. From this example, we can face the love people of Lithuania can give to a passionate object.

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What do you think, does the architecture photography with heritage scatter/popularity takes important place in?

Good picture – is almost the most important instrument, which can make building more popular than it is. In addition, it is not the only thing, the same importance takes, where and when it would be published. If building’s architecture is unique, these two things, mentioned before, is enough for the synergy. The importance of history in the picture, is more important than visualization, it can’t make up for everything, for example various historical monuments. Sometimes, people need to be fed with information about the art they are looking at, they need to be pointed to there to look and why it should be or not to be essential and evaluated. Although sometimes all we need is to remember and notice casual simple things like Ed Ruscha’s album “Twentysix Gasoline Stations”.

People were talking around about how Vilnius needs to renovate Castle of Gediminas. It seems the mountain started to rip itself. Till now, there is still the debates about ‘Lords palace’ in Vilnius rehabilitation and in Kaunas – about castle of Kaunas. Don’t you think authenticity in heritage protection is like fetish? Does not remained, bus still renewable, element loses it’s meaning?

When we talk about heritage protection, we need to remember it is not a math science. It is stage of many opinions, in which tendency persistently is changing. Now dominates authentic cult. I think, the most significant question about building, should be not how old it is but how much original idea and work it gathers to our society. When you go to the regional museum, do you look to the chunky celling lights, projectile found in the field by and old tiller or do you stare at authentic graphics of renewable and still working cannon? It is crucial how much information do we know about historical building rehabilitation. Heritage protection should avoid improvisations. In soviet times, it was usual to expose old building’s fragments and by interpreting, make it solid again, what is why in old town’s buildings are full of gothic touch. Renovation can’t be done on purpose. Buildings need to be renovated only by vital construction circumstances, when historical simple structure is lost and documented. Although, we wouldn’t have Trakai castle, our national symbol, if it wasn’t for improvisation.

Nevertheless, what do you think, what is that magic element, which can, ordinary building, maybe there we live or make dinner, turn to heritage wonder?

The connection.

Paskelbta: December 30, 2017

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