The builders of Modern Kaunas 2

Marius Vyšniauskas, 2015-07-30

In brief: Kaunas - the provisional capital of the first Republic of Lithuania in the memoirs of contemporaries is full of picturesque epithets, for example, "little Paris", or "little Brussels." This paper will review the people who created the "New Kaunas" because of their work the interwar period architecture today is awarded the Western European Heritage Label. Since it is impossible to write about everyone, I will focus on a several biographies.

Lithuanian university was established in Kaunas at the High Courses base, in 1922, February 16th. Already in the High Courses Technical Department construction lecture series program it was planned to have introductory architecture lectures. In 1921 they were read by Professor Mykolas Songaila (1874–1941), who had just come back from St. Petersburg.

According to the sources, the most important field of M. Songaila creative work was considered to be design and construction work, therefore he is best known to the residents of Kaunas of the time as a designer of the Lithuanian Bank (1928 together with F. Funkas and F. Vizbaras) and Vytautas Magnus University, Faculty of Physics and Chemistry (1931, did not survive). Above all, we should not forget the close friendship with another architect V. Dubeneckis (1888–1932), for whose grave in the cemetery of Petrašiūnai M. Songaila created a monument.


Perhaps the most information Lithuanian historiography has is on the architect V. Dubeneckis, whose life, according to contemporaries, stood out with its colorful bohemian pallet. In the beginning of the October revolution, in 1919, architect with his wife, a future Lithuanian ballet artist Olga Dubeneckienė (1891–1967) moved to Vilnius. But then the Polish occupation hit they moved to Kaunas. Architect opened all his talent namely for Kaunas and built a number of memorable buildings, for example, the central building of Medical Academy, War Museum, which was unfinished and etc.


Quite different was the fate of another Kaunas architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis (1893–1993). It is estimated that he has created more than a hundred architectural and urban projects of a different scale. Almost all the famous interwar period buildings where built according to his projects: The Dairy Center (1934), Physical Education building and etc. V. Landsbergis-Žemkalnis graduated from architecture studies in Riga (1913–1918). Later he joined the Lithuanian struggle for independence as an artillery captain and participated in almost all major battles.

As for the other Kaunas architects it is worth mentioning an architect of German origin Arnas Funkas (1898–1957), who designed the building for Lithuanian Insurance Company (1936), Savings bank building (1939), a couple of villas. His works were an example of functionalist architecture.



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