2017-01-11 Back to list

The Modernist Architecture of Kaunas: A Step Closer to UNESCO

Being included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List would contribute greatly to the growing numbers of international tourists interested in modernist architecture.

Photo by Andrius Aleksandravičius

It was announced on January 10th that the modernist architecture of the interwar period in Kaunas was included into UNESCO's World Heritage Tentative List. The nomination prepared by the city municipality is called “The Capital Inspired by the Modern Movement” and declares the nominee’s authenticity, integrity and outstanding universal value. 

“During the period 1918 to 1940, Lithuania was one of the newly restored states that had formed in Central and Eastern Europe on a national-territorial basis after the First World War. Vilnius, its historic capital, had been lost in 1919, and Kaunas became the new capital city. Formerly a modest Imperial Russian garrison town, it suddenly acquired a new importance on the map of Europe. Its status as capital provided an impulse to accelerate its integration into the political, social and cultural context of interwar Europe, through material and non-material forms, such as architecture, diplomacy, culture and education”, states the text available in full at the UNESCO website.

Making it to the tentative list is the first step toward the UNESCO's World Heritage List. It means the application met the necessary requirements and now the nomination has to be prepared. This is expected to take at least two years. UNESCO will monitor the process as well as the actual possibilities to renovate and revive the modernist architecture buildings, such as the Central post office by Feliksas Vizbaras, the headquarters of Pienocentras company by Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis and many others located in the main streets of Kaunas.

a026 n tukaj 007The Pažanga Company, Laisvės al. 53, architect Feliksas Vizbaras

a023 n tukaj 007Central Post Office, Laisvės al. 102 architect Feliksas Vizbaras

a025 n tukaj 011

The Headquarters of Pienocentras, Laisvės al. 55, architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis

a056 n tukaj 013

Christ's Resurrection Basilica, Žemaičių g. 21B, architect Karolis Reisonas

Being included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List would contribute greatly to the growing numbers of international tourists interested in modernist architecture. It would also boost the self-esteem and pride of the residents of the city. The local interest in modernist architecture has already increased thanks to a lot of publications, books, guides, excursions etc. being published and presented on a regular basis.

It's important to add that the Kaunas municipality started a financial aid campaign for owners of historic (not limited to modernist architecture) buildings. EUR 400 000 was allocated in 2016; 17 real estate owners used the aid to partly finance the renovation projects. The budget of the program is expected to be increased to EUR 800 000 in 2017. You can read more about it here.

The historic center of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, is already in the UNESCO's World Heritage Tentative List, together with the Kernavė Archaeological Site, the Curonian Spit (shared with the Russian Federation) and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with 9 other countries). The Historical National Park of Trakai is now on the Tentative List.



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