True Lithuania

Interwar Architecture in Lithuania (1918 – 1944)

Rebirth of independent Lithuania in 1918 gave a new impetus on construction. Initially, the earlier historicist trends were continued. This changed soon and the most productive decade of interwar architecture (1930s) was heavily influenced by art deco style and Bauhaus movement. It saw a reduction of architectural detail. But while there were no more bas-reliefs or statues adorning the facades there were still many large over-arching architectural motives that make the architecture of this period attractive. Typically these Lithuanian buildings include both sharp and curved corners, although some follow art deco style throughout and omit curved lines.

Central post buiding in Kaunas (1931) is an example of national interwar style with curved lines, followed by many private buildings as well. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Kaunas was the seat of parliament and government in this era and therefore this city is where you should look for interwar architecture. Between the years of 1923 and 1939 the size of this city increased from 92 446 inhabitants to 154 109.

Borough of Žaliakalnis (planned by interwar urbanists for the detached homes of the elite) and the New Town (the heart of interwar Kaunas) are the districts most saturated with art deco architecture. The most visible landmark of this so-called Smetonic era (after the interwar president Antanas Smetona) is the Church of Christ Ressurection in Žaliakalnis (Kaunas). Other major examples of large scale interwar architecture exist in the New Town of Kaunas: the War Museum, Central post building, Pienocentras HQ.

The 1934 art deco museum building in Kaunas New Town houses two most important museums in the era: the War museum and the gallery of symbolist genius M. K. Čiurlionis. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Other cities of Lithuania usually also have several major interwar buildings each as the government of newly independent Lithuania was keen to provide many of them with new schools, bank buildings or train stations. The top 7 cities by population of interwar independent Lithuania were Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Marijampolė, Ukmergė and Tauragė.

Vilnius was a backwater of the Polish state at this time and therefore has relatively few interwar buildings for its major size.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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