Kaunas has a hidden miracle and the time has come to reveal it. This miracle consists of more than 6,000 buildings, designed in the modernist spirit and surviving to the present day. It is an open-air school of good taste and style. It is also a museum of beautiful life, dispersed through the streets, courtyards, and avenues of Kaunas – discovered, washed and restored to its past glory. But it is not just about buildings and sites, it is also about people who built and cultivated them – their stories, their lives and their thoughts. It is about the city’s [nation’s] rebirth and hope, about creative attitude and inspiring productive optimism, about growth of ideas and visions, about art and freedom. It is about changing forms, visual interpretation of values, about creating modernist-inspired design and art objects. It is about initiating a new golden age, creating contemporary gems, drawing inspiration from Kaunas interwar modernist architecture.
KAUNAS MODERNISM ARCHITECTURE
In 2015, an international panel of experts established by the European Commission awarded Kaunas city the European Heritage Label for the application “Kaunas of 1919-1940”. In the same year, Kaunas became the first Central and Eastern European city to join UNESCO Cities of Design network. That was a breakthrough when not only architecture professionals, but also the whole city started realizing that Kaunas interwar period is worth exceptional attention, respect and affection.
The interwar period was rather optimistic for Kaunas. In 1920-1939, when Vilnius was part of Poland, Kaunas served as the temporary capital of Lithuania. This status led to fast growth and extensive modernisation of the city and provoked a huge construction boom. This remarkable economic, cultural, architectural and educational development resulted in an urban landscape exuberantly reflecting Europe’s interwar modernism and constituting today an outstanding heritage of the prosperuous golden age (consisting of more than 6,000 buildings that survived until now).
The awards became an impetus for Kaunas society to engage together in new activities related to modernism. In the past 5 or 6 years, the so-called modernist community is an increasingly visible cultural actor striving to revitalize and promote Kaunas and Kaunas modernist architecture. The movement is steadily gaining influence and attracting more members to its’ informal network: active kaunasians, art scholars, architectural historians, heritage professionals, designers, film makers, artists, universities, festivals, NGOs, partners from other Lithuanian cities and foreign countries. This open and optimistic modernist community is becoming a dedicated solid power redesigning not only Kaunas modernism, but also the whole city.