As new architecture styles slowly push out Kaunas' wooden houses, a new maps seeks to highlight and preserve the unique architectural heritage in Lithuania's second largest city.
Architect Povilas Konkulevičius has a collection of things he has rescued from demolished wooden houses: window frames, decorative trinkets, pieces of stairway railings, door knobs, electric switches.
He says sometimes a wooden house from the 1920s or 1930s can disappear over a weekend and its valuable historical details go to a dump.
Konkulevičius himself lives in a two-storey wooden house in the picturesque Žaliakalnis district. The building belonged to his great-grandparents, but the Soviet authorities nationalised it in the 1940s. The house lost its window decorations, wooden paneling, its doors were replaced and four apartments subdivided into eight.
“The house has not been properly kept for 50 years. Without owners, no one took care of it,“ Konkulevičius tells LRT TV. “When they returned it, it was neglected, some balks were rotten.”
It is houses like this that are showcased on the map drawn up by organisers of KAFe 2019 Kaunas architecture festival. The aim is to show the variety of the city's urban heritage.
“We want to find the small stories, the untold stories and to reassure people that a city's diversity is its strength,” says Tautvydas Urbelis, one of the festival's coordinators. “And that the city is constantly changing, some things survive, others change and that's nothing to fear.”
The map was presented with a discussion about the wooden houses of Kaunas, many of them in poor condition and quite unsuitable for living.
Architect Gintaras Balčytis says there is no one clear answer what to do with them, preserve or clear the space for new buildings. He stresses, however, that different layers make a city more interesting.
“Wooden architecture, it's something that is coming into fashion, in cities like Oslo or even New York they are planning to build wooden skyscrapers,” Balčytis tells LRT TV. “For Lithuanians and everyone else, wood is a warm material, very close.”