In the rapidly growing temporary capital, uncontrollable flames encouragingly began to be doused. The city’s new, modern face was complemented in the 1930s by a new fire station, an extraordinary three-tower fire fortress. The building’s construction site was chosen, not by chance, to be near the Nemunas River – a natural and inexhaustible water reservoir.
Built in 1931, the Kaunas Central Post Office building is one of the most significant instances of modernist architecture from interwar Lithuania. Designed by architect Feliksas Vizbaras, it is a masterpiece which elegantly combines international modernism and decorative elements in the national style. Built at the beginning of the two decades of independence, the palace reflects both the quest for a national architectural style undertaken during the first decade, and the aspirations for modernity and functionality arising during the second decade.
There are various locations around Kaunas that Barry focused on. This was a former Bank and Residential Apartment block.
Chemistry School & Research Laboritory
At the beginning of independence, the Lithuanian state bought weapons, explosives and other military material from abroad. It was later decided to develop a local arms industry. In both cases, however, there was a lack of a research laboratory capacity to carry out tests on the quality of ammunition and the raw materials and products used in production. In 1935 an armaments (research) laboratory was established. The research laboratory building is one of the most striking examples of Lithuanian interwar modernism. Its structure is based on a promising system of reinforced concrete frame structures and their expression on the exterior. The most valuable functionalist elements of the building include the strip windows, flat roofs and enlivening decorative chimneys.
The Iljinai family home
Blank Page Studio
The construction project and plot of this house, which came to have an orangery on its roof, was purchased by Iljinai family in 1933. It is said that Jurgis Iljinas gifted this house to his wife Aleksandra. The house stood out on account of its luxurious and exclusive Art Deco interior. The building’s architect, Arnas Funkas, is also renowned for being a great master of interwar interiors. It is one of the most famous and exclusive examples of interwar modernism, not only in Kaunas, but also in Lithuania more widely.
Home of pedagogy expert Jonas Dereškevičius
A wooden, architecturally-upmarket two-storey apartment building was built for homeowners and renters in 1928. It was built by the headmaster of the Žaliakalnis primary school, the pedagogy expert Jonas Dereškevičius. According to the teacher's daughter Algė Dereškevičiūtė, her father really wanted to have a house of his own. After taking out a bank loan, he built a four-apartment building. The second-floor apartment with a balcony was occupied by the teacher's own family; the other apartments were rented. The owner’s apartment is distinguished by the hanging balcony at the corner of the second floor of the house, a typical and highly common feature of modernist brick buildings of that time. The rooms in the house are supplied with light through large, originally split windows.
Probably, there are only a handful of houses in Lithuania that could boast of having such a significant backstory, known around the world. In 1939, when building a typical villa in Žaliakalnis, Minister of Education Juozas Tonkūnas could not have foreseen that he was making a monument for future generations.
With the outbreak of World War II, many refugees from occupied Poland began moving to other countries, still hoping to emigrate even further. In the same year, Chiune Sugihara, and the Japanese consulate was set up in J. Tonkūnas’ house. Hundreds of Jews started flocking here every day to obtain transit visas and reach America or other possible destinations through Japan. The transit visas issued by Consul C. Sugihara saved more than 6,000 war refugees who flooded into Lithuania at the beginning of the war.
Interwar Modernist Homes
Kaunas has some of the finest examples of Interwar Period Modernity in Europe.
The Bank of Lithuania
The Bank of Lithuania building in Kaunas is one of the most luxurious and emblematic buildings in Lithuania constructed during the interwar period. It also became a fortress of the national currency – the litas. What is more, the building is still called the “Kaunas Louvre” because it is probably the best restored and preserved example of Lithuanian architecture from the first half of the 20th century.
The Art of Kaunas
Barry took inspiration from the Public Art works throughout the city of Kaunas.
In this sequence the work by Robertas Antinis found in the Sculpture Garden on on V. Putvinskis Street.
V. Putvinskis Street
V. Putvinskis Street is one of the finest examples of both civic and private Interwar Modernist buildings and features in a number of scenes in the Film.
The historical Kaunas funiculars are one of the brightest and most unique signs of the modernization and technical heritage of Kaunas city infrastructure, that bear witness to the city’s rapid growth on its path to becoming a cultural capital. Still operating today, these funiculars highlight one of Kaunas’s most expressive urban features – the slopes and their direct interaction with the city.
Kaunas Brick Factory
Architectural historian Dr. Viltė Migonytė-Petrulienė is curator of regional partnership as well as programme Modernism for the future of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022. She defended dissertation Lithuanian Resort Architecture Between WWI and WWII (1918–1940) as a Phenomenon of Modernizing Society. Currently is involved as a curator and co-curator in different local and European projects related to riverside and cultural tourism such as the “STAR Cities” Interreg Europe project.
The Kaunas Evangelical Reformed Church
The construction of this church began in Lithuania during the interwar period. Plans were made for it to become an important symbol of the Evangelical Reformed community, but this was hindered by the beginning of the occupation of Lithuania. Worship could not be performed in the church, which was built but not completed. During the occupation, it was turned into a warehouse for beer and tobacco, and it later became the militia school’s gymnasium and canteen. The design of this church was entrusted to the Lithuanian Latvian architect Karolis Reisonas, the same architect who designed the Kaunas Resurrection Basilica. This factor led to the similarity between the two churches, which led to their being dubbed “sisters”.
The Ninth Fort Monument
The memorial complex of Kaunas’s Ninth Fort consists of a fort, an administrative building, a new museum building, a field which marks the site of a historical massacre, a monument, and a park. It is a post-war memorial complex dedicated to the memory of the victims of Nazism and totalitarianism. In 1984 the brutalist-style monument was built and became probably the largest and one of the most famous monuments in Lithuania. The three-part concrete sculptural composition symbolizes the confrontation with evil, and the uprising and resistance against it: the smallest part of the monument, on its right side, is called “Pain”, while the diagonally rising left side is called “Hope”, and the largest, decorated with smiling faces, “Liberation”. The sculptural monument of Kaunas’s Ninth Fort is considered to be the most significant work of sculptor A. Vincentas Ambraziūnas’ entire career.
The former Faculty of Medicine of Vytautas Magnus University
The plagues, poverty, and contagious diseases of World War I reduced the young country to the status of a nation on the periphery. Due to the poor provision of medical infrastructure and its lack of doctors, Lithuania has since reached the top of Europe’s mortality statistics, therefore social protection and health have become priority areas that must ensure the well-being of the modern society in the long run. The new building of the Faculty of Medicine has become one of the most significant and largest buildings designed by architect V. Dubeneckis in Kaunas. The buildings were modelled on the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Brussels, which at the time was considered one of the best in Europe.
The water reservoir station in Žaliakalnis
In 2019, the Kaunas Water Supply company celebrated its 90th anniversary. Paradoxically, in so-called “water city” Kaunas, the centralized city water supply only started operating as late as 1929. The water supply station located in Žaliakalnis definitely serves as a reminder of this significant event in the history of the city’s modernization. The water supply station buildings, built between 1930 and 1938, were designed by engineer S. Kairis, and architects Kudokas and F. Bielinskis. They are also a significant part of the narrative of Kaunas modernism.
The Žmuidzinavičiai family home
This house in a prestigious street was built during the interwar period, and the family of famous public figures – headed by painter Antanas Žmuidzinavičius and his wife dentist Marija Žmuidzinavičienė-Putvinskaitė – settled in it. Initially, the house had two floors, and later the third floor was added, where A. Žmuidzinavičius had his workshop. The house also accommodated the dental surgery belonging to the artist’s wife. In the interwar period, the Swedish consulate was housed in this building for some time. The Finnish-Swedish writer Henry Parland also worked there.
The artillery warehouse complex in Aukštieji Šančiai was built between 1883-1889, although some of its buildings were built at the beginning of the 20th century. It is one of the complexes of the Kaunas fortress, highly adapted to the area’s natural relief with its urban structure. A former gunpowder warehouse is cleverly hidden in a tree-covered ragout. Abandoned for many years, today it is not only kept tidy and maintained by the local community, but has also become another tourist attraction to visit and a place for community initiatives and events.
The M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum
The National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum, established in 1921, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in Lithuania. It is the only place in the world where almost all the creative legacy of M. K. Čiurlionis (1875–1911), the most famous Lithuanian painter, composer, writer and public figure, has been collected. It is no coincidence that the building’s architect, V. Dubeneckis, decided to symbolically “crown” the building with the volume of the museum’s auditorium, reminiscent of an emblematic element often found in the work of this artist and symbolist.