VilNews section 19: REAL ESTATE, CONSTRUCTION, ARCHITECTURE, INTERIOR DESIGN AND MORE...
THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Aage Myhre, 60, is the Norwegian architect, journalist, publisher whose community building skills have made him a small expat phenomenon in Vilnius. He is about to return to his home country after twenty two years in Vilnius, taking along his Lithuanian spouse and two daughters, but leaving his other object of admiration, Vilnius’ Old Town, behind.
news2biz met Aage to ask him to reflect on his Lithuanian stay that lasted much long than he expected.
Text and photos: Aage Myhre
The Vilnius city wall was a defensive wall built 500 years ago. Vilnius was by then capital of Europe’s largest country, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The city wall was built between 1503 and 1522 for protection from the attacks by the Crimean Khanate at the beginning of the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars. The stone and brick wall was a key element of the defensive system of Vilnius, and was paid for by the city’s landowners. It contained nine gates and an artillery bastion.
Only a small part of the city wall remains today, and only one gate is still intact. The remaining part of the wall is very interesting, and you’re hereby invited to a stroll along the wall outside….
ABOVE: My first project in Vilnius Old Town, Dominikonų g. 5 , 1993-1995.
See also http://vilnews.com/?p=1549.
I had seen a lot of great architecture around the world before I came to Lithuania more than 20 years ago. Yet I had never seen a country whose identity was carried by architecture. Most countries have their unique architecture and national monuments, but here I was suddenly faced with a nation where many centuries of history and life were clearly recorded in the buildings and the surrounding, unique urban environment called the Vilnius Old Town. Walking through this exciting history book is what increasingly makes Lithuania’s traditional architecture a magnet for visitors from around the world. For it is precisely here that they find the essence of architecture; experiencing that buildings, styles, streets, squares, ornaments play in perfect harmony with human life and activities, in a symbiosis found nowhere else in the world.
Text: Aage Myhre, VilNews Editor-in-Chief/architect
Vilnius is called the “world’s most Italian city outside Italy,” and also “Europe’s most baroque city north of the Alps”. Before the Baroque made its appearance, Vilnius was considered one of the world’s three leading Renaissance cities (!), in competition with Milan and Florence. However, although the Lithuanian architecture has its roots in Italy, it also developed its own distinctive character, which now once again delights and surprises visitors from near and far.
Unfortunately, this wonderful national heritage was not preserved and continued too well during the years when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. Also today, there is devoted minimal attention to this heritage, the very identity of Lithuania. Buildings and environments that have been completed over the past 20 years have too much become pale, indifferent copies of Western countries ‘modernist architecture’ instead of development projects based on Lithuania’s phenomenal genuine, beautiful traditions in architecture and living environments.
Fortunately, there are still ancient urban districts and buildings throughout the country that remind us about what a proud and powerful identity Lithuania had in the past. And thankfully, authorities and many others understand that these fine monuments must be preserved as the proud bearers of identity they still are.
But it surprises me greatly that today’s architects and planners are not willing to listen to Lithuania’s own ‘identity-music’ instead of following in the footsteps of the West’s often banalising, so-called modern architecture.
A Lithuanian architecture that honour and take into account the nation’s identity would not cost more, it would make the new building environments more attractive and warm, and it would show the world that Lithuania is a proud nation with deep roots in culture and history, virtually unparalleled. So why wait?
Let me exemplify what I have in mind…
New bank buildings appear, also in Lithuania. The banks SEB, DNB, NORDEA and
UKIO still have their headquarters in older buildings in the Vilnius city centre while
two other banks, Swedbank and Danske Bank, are headquartered in new buildings
just outside the centre. The challenge for banks of today, here as in the rest of the
world, is to express their own identity and at the same time show environmental
adaptation when their new buildings are erected. The picture above illustrates
how I think a new bank building in the Vilnius outskirts can both demonstrate
respect and belonging to the city’s fantastic architectural history while also
being innovative, inspiring and audience-friendly. Real materials, such as
traditional bricks, as ‘bottom line’, combined with a future-oriented,
optimistic glass building in front would, in my opinion, symbolize
the future of Lithuanian banking sector in a good way.
Text: Aage Myhre, architect and editor-in-chief
I’ve had the pleasure of studying bank architecture for more than 30 years. My primary task when I completed my master studies in architecture in Norway involved the analysis and criticism of bank buildings, and I touched the subject also later, when I studied architectural psychology in France. Bank architecture is very fascinating because banking is a profession that has always been keen to signal dignity and sometimes power, while money itself does not have a separate visual identity.
Greek temples with solid pillars in front was long a favourite theme, while one in recent decades have experimented with all sorts of, often divergent, symbolism variants.
Also in the Baltic States has one in recent years seen attempts to develop identity buildings for banks; from mafia-like castles with dark glass as the main theme, to more power-demonstrating buildings where Soviet ideology still seems to apply.
Fortunately, there are also brighter examples …
Let me invite you on a tour through the history of banking architecture, globally and here in this country. Allow me also to share some thoughts with you about why bank architecture is important for the monetary economy’s future, and how new bank buildings should best adapt to the long and strong architectural tradition this country represents, even in a global context.
These are my topics of the day:
1. History of bank architecture
2. Pre-war banks in Lithuania
3. Jewish banking in Lithuania
4. Banks during Soviet years
5. ‘New’ banks in old buildings
6. ‘New’ banks in new buildings
7. What should characterize a
bank building of today?
AN UŽUPIS COURTYARD.
Photo: Aage Myhre
VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editors: editor@VilNews.com.
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