2021.09.20 15:35

Minister suggests demolishing Soviet-era Vilnius Airport building

Erika Alonderytė, BNS2021.09.20 15:35

Vilnius Airport should demolish its Soviet-era arrivals terminal because it is antiquated and “does not fit Lithuania's image”, the country's transport minister says.

Constructed in 1954, the building does not meet the airport's needs and should be replaced with a new one, Minister Marius Skuodis told reporters on Monday.

Upgrading the current building would cost twice as much as constructing a new one, according to him.

“The airport does not fit Lithuania's image and also does not satisfy functional needs, therefore, I do hope we will find common sense-based solutions on what to do with it,” Skuodis said. “There are several options and the optimal one is to demolish this building. Another one would be to look for ways to preserve some parts of it, but that would cost twice as much.”

The main airport building was constructed in 1949–1954 in the style of Soviet classicism, complete with statues of workers and classical columns. In 1993, a new bigger departures terminal was constructed behind the old building, which now serves as the arrivals terminal.

According to Skuodis, Vilnius Airport served over 1 million passengers last year and around 5 million before the pandemic, although it has the capacity to serve 3.5 million passengers annually.

“This building should be replaced by a new and modern airport,” the transport minister said.

According to Skuodis, there is nothing unique about the edifice, as the design has been used in a number of cities across the Soviet Union.

Marius Gelžinis, head of Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports), the airport operator in Lithuania, says the building's maintenance is too costly, requiring around 1.2 million euros for stair, roof and façade repairs this year. Additionally, between 100,000 and 200,000 euros are allocated for maintenance and upkeep every year.

“Once we build a new terminal, we will increase the airport's capacity to up to 8 million passengers, and this whole zone will remain for arrival only. It's physically impossible now to let such a number of passengers through it,” Gelžinis told reporters.

Skuodis said he was planning to launch meetings and discussions with the Culture Ministry, heritage protection institutions, architects, designers and the city authorities.

The Cultural Heritage Department says it see no arguments as to why the building, which is included into the Cultural Heritage Register, should be demolished.

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