Wooden Kaunas: phenomenon of Lower Šančiai 1

Laura Rimkutė
www.kamane.lt, 2014-12-01
A house at Vokiečių St. 24

In brief: Separate historical suburbs of wooden houses have been forming the face of Kaunas from the first half of the 20th century. Each suburb has the prevailing type of wooden houses determined by social conditions, cultural traditions and the urban situation of the location. While summer houses prevail in Panemunė and more modern architectural  solutions and more abundant decorations may be noticed in wooden houses of Žaliakalnis, the Lower Šančiai and Vilijampolė were inhabited by workers mostly and, therefore, stand out by conservative, modest buildings with simple eclectic decor.

All these suburbs gained characteristic features (quarters of poor people, workers, elite, industrial quarter, etc.). The place of residence formed the outlook and culture of inhabitants of these quarters. This may be said about huge quarters of blocks-of-flats built in soviet times as well as about old quarters with deep history.

The Lower Šančiai also has a special status. The spontaneous appearance of buildings in the quarter determined the mentality of its inhabitants as well as mutual relations. Šančiai was the quarter of workers of Kaunas, which grew rapidly in the times of the first Republic of Lithuania. The quarter differed from other quarters of similar profile in other Lithuanian towns or in other countries by the fact that workers lived in multi-apartment houses that did not correspond to hygienic norms, they had small wooden houses with land plots. In this way workers did not forget their origins of Lithuanian farmers.

It is hard to find features that would unite all houses in the Lower Šančiai. Most of them are of two functional types: one-family or rented houses. There are some railwaymen’s and officers’ houses in A. Juozapavičiaus Avenue. The author analyses these types of houses and their architectural features in greater detail in the article.

It is concluded that the Lower Šančiai quarter looks like a village in the centre of the city in the 21st century, when modern  buildings arise around rapidly. This quarter still has its closed community, traces of rural life and the specific mentality of an inhabitant of Lower Šančiai.

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