True Lithuania

Post-Independence Architecture in Lithuania (1990 – …)

Early independence years brought hardships related to the change of economic system, but once the switch to capitalism was complete the modern construction took hold in Lithuanian cities. The Soviet city planning had left large chunks of undeveloped areas between the major districts, as well as numerous outdated factories and military bases within city limits. At the same time, Lithuania desperately needed buildings that Soviets have omitted, such as shopping malls, offices, churches and modern apartments. So, the undeveloped and neglected spaces have burgeoned in construction cranes after a brief economic hardship in the early 1990s.

The most ambitious project of this era is the New City Center of Vilnius around the new Europos Square and Konstitucijos Avenue. Šiaurės Miestelis (North City) in Vilnius, once a site of a large Soviet factory and military base, now is converted into a modern district of economic apartments and commercial establishments.

The New City Center in Vilnius (Šnipiškės borough), constructed 2000 and later. Here stands the tallest building in the Baltic States (Europa Tower, 148 m). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Klaipėda attracted a large scale Gandrališkės project with the tallest residential building in the Baltic States, while further inland the factories of Klaipėda Free Economic Zone marks the Lithuanian industrial revival fueled by foreign investments.

“Akropolis” in Vilnius (opened in the year 2000), the first major western-style shopping mall in Lithuania and still the largest one in the Baltic States (over 100 000 sq. m in size after several expansions), became quite an icon on itself. Many attempted to copy its success and now every city has modern shopping malls.

Early independence era (1990 – 1996) is still visible in the large kitsch private homes that surround the main cities (for example, Kairėnai suburb of Vilnius), in the massive plain brick churches that sprung up after decades of religious persecution (e.g. incomplete Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis church in Vilnius (1991)) and in the Gariūnai marketplace (near Vilnius) where many Lithuanians started their businesses.

Elaborate large private homes of early 1990s era along the northeastern exit from Klaipėda city. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Later era (1997 and beyond) brought glass and steel high rises and post-modern forms. An example of post-modernism might be the „1000 litų“ building in Kaunas which has an entire facade covered by an image of an interwar 1000 Litas banknote. At the same time, the residential idea of a „modern castle“ gave way to that of a newly constructed apartment or that of a smaller yet modern home in a gated community.

1000 litų building in Kaunas. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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