„Kaunas 2022“ invites to an international conference on European Democracy

National governments all across Europe order their citizens to stay in the confinement of their homes via the freedom-inhibiting curfews. In these times of technocratic decision-making and crisis-managing, it is often unclear which information our leaders are basing their verdicts on. How can we as citizens hold our elected officials accountable for their policy implementations?

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This year, International Day of Happiness invites everyone to rise

The International Day of Happiness, celebrated on the 20th of March, returns to Kaunas, Kaunas District and all of Lithuania again this year: “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” invites you to celebrate it for the fourth time, under the theme “Time to rise”.

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Modernism for the Future 365/360: selection of the artists who will interpret the modernist architecture is announced!

After winning “Creative Europe” funding in May, “Kaunas 2022” project “Modernism for the Future 365/360” gains momentum: the received submissions were carefully evaluated and the commission selected artists to participate at local and international residencies. Artists of various disciplines will interpret modernist architecture in 8 local and 7 international residencies, located in these cities: Kaunas (Lithuania), Lviv (Ukraine), Kotrtijk (Belgium) and Brno (Czech Republic). A list of selected artists can be found in this document.

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Thousands of pictures brought to life: the stories dormant in Kaunas’s modernist buildings will come to life in the film Folds

Only one year remains until Kaunas becomes European Capital of Culture 2022. In one year’s time, stories from the city’s forgotten past will find their voice in cinemas through the film Folds (Lithuanian “Klostės”), which takes Kaunas’s modernist architecture as its inspiration. This unique, black and white, silent, animated story is the collective creation of hundreds of Kaunas city and Kaunas district residents, and local artists, and is directed by Irish visual artist Aideen Barry.

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Kaunas’ modernist architecture’s application submitted to UNESCO: experts will evaluate not only what remains, but the wish to preserve

After several years of experts’ intensive work, the nomination file Modernusis Kaunas: Optimizmo architektūra, 1919–1939 (Modern Kaunas: Architecture of Optimism) was submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris. It awaits assessment from international experts and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for Kaunas’ modernist architecture to be granted the status of UNESCO World Heritage.

The document drafting process required for Kaunas’ modernist architecture to be granted the status of UNESCO World Heritage was started back in 2016. Only a country may submit this application, it is signed by the country’s Minister of Culture.

“I am sincerely delighted that today in our hands we hold a solid application, which we can already deem as an accomplishment for our whole country. This several year’s process allowed us to look at the unique Kaunas’ modernist architecture anew, highlight it as of especially significant worth, encourage larger interest of society not only in Kaunas, but in all of Lithuania. These results would not be possible without the leadership of Kaunas City Municipality, without the consistent dialogue with the local community and cultural organisations. I strongly believe that these endeavours will be awarded with a favourable decision and Kaunas’ modernist architecture will become part of UNESCO World Heritage,” claimed Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys.

The leader of the group of experts who prepared the application, Professor Marija Drėmaitė from Vilnius University Faculty of History, believes that the assessment may last until 2023 because of travel limitations due to the pandemic: “It all depends on how soon the international experts who will assess the application will be permitted to travel. They must arrive at the site, meet specialists, communities, local authorities. It is not simply an evaluation of the site, but communication with people as well.”

The urban heritage site consists of two parts

The nomination file Modernusis Kaunas: Optimizmo architektūra, 1919–1939 (Modern Kaunas: Architecture of Optimism) is a comprehensive 500-page publication.

“The process itself, of course, was very long and, therefore, useful because each member country of the UNESCO Convention which submits an application for the status of UNESCO World Heritage has enough time to evaluate what it has and what it can offer. It is a responsible decision because once the application is submitted, the country must undertake obligations to preserve the exclusive and universal worth: the recorded value of the object and the site,” notes M. Drėmaitė.

According to M. Drėmaitė, the drafting process of the application which started in 2016, the formulated application for inclusion in the Tentative List in 2017, and finally the complete application was an important time for the researchers themselves, the writers of the application, city authority representatives, cultural heritage experts: “One may say that this was the time to grow up, mature, comprehend what kind of thing, process, nomination, object it is. Because the boundaries and the conception whether it really is merely a list of buildings were changing. Now, the so-called urban landscape has been introduced. The urban heritage site is comprised of two parts: Naujamiestis and Žaliakalnis. The process is long, but very useful – for evaluating for yourself – what does Kaunas’ modernism truly mean.”

The territory of the property is comprised of Naujamiestis three thematic zones: central (administrative), residential and industrial; and Žaliakalnis five thematic zones: city-garden (Minties Ring), Kaukas District, Perkūnas District, Ąžuolynas Park with the sports infrastructure and Military Research Laboratory for the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence (current Kaunas University of Technology Faculty of Chemical Technology).

Provided nomination covers the construction years 1919–1939

M. Drėmaitė stresses that it concerns not separate objects, but their entirety and this entirety is a strength of Kaunas’ modernism. The provided nomination covers the construction years 1919–1939, when Kaunas was the temporary capital.

“And that capital status was sudden, unexpected because nobody was planning for Kaunas to become the capital. When in January 1919 the government had to suddenly relocate to Kaunas, everyone believed that the relocation would be temporary, but it lasted 20 years. During that time, a European city suitable for the new national state had to be considered and built. That is the main idea of the application: this is a modernist European city, which underwent an exceptionally swift and vast transformation of the modernist stratum. And after World War I, when the great empires collapsed, many new nations in Europe which had to found new capitals emerged and they all chose modernism as their architectural language. This allowed to abandon imperialist experiences, to create a modern image and no longer resemble provincial cities of the former empires,” the historian explained.

Does the city stand a chance?

Does Kaunas stand a chance? That is the question the creators of the application are most frequently asked. According to M. Drėmaitė, the answer to this question partly depends on the residents of Kaunas’ wish to preserve the modernist stratum.

“How strongly do they wish to preserve, emphasize, highlight this? As many cities modernised themselves during the inter-war period, this stratum in Kaunas remained authentic and, perhaps, still remains the most well-preserved one. In this compact area, the concentration of modernist buildings is immense. As much as the city residents, government, heritage experts, investors, businesses will be willing to preserve, emphasize, and highlight this stratum, that is how high of a chance we will have. Once UNESCO experts arrive, they will look not only at the level of preservation, but at the wish to preserve as well. I would even dare to say, the obligation to preserve,” continued M. Drėmaitė.

In the historian’s view, the preparation of the application and the publicity, comprehension, historical knowledge, the past’s urban stratum experienced during this time is already in itself tremendously useful. “The research completed in 2020, which is presented in a 500-page file, may be an excellent inventory of the city,” stated M. Drėmaitė.

Not only a privilege, but a great responsibility

Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 programme’s Modernism for the Future curator Viltė Migonytė-Petrulienė claims that in the event of a successful outcome Kaunas receives UNESCO approval, it would be a great opportunity to promote the city and the country and become an inspiring example of heritage protection in the 21st century.

“On the one hand the inter-war period left an exceptional footprint on the city which provides Kaunas unique character and spirit, but on the other hand we are not the only city in the world which may deem itself as modernist. This means that if successful, Kaunas would receive the opportunity to represent the modernist city as a unique cultural, social, and, of course, architectural phenomenon of the 20th century on an international level. That is not only a privilege, but a great responsibility. By nurturing the modernist city as from the past inherited building, street, nature element, and finally, function entirety, the community will need to find the recipe for success on how to maintain the physical authenticity, but at the same time be a city of the 21st century. The heritage must be perceived not only as of historical worth, but also as an inspiration for high-quality, stable, and socially responsive creation of the future city. Kaunas 2022 strongly supports the ambition to be nominated, we wish you luck and have no doubts that this will be a part of Kaunas 2022’s Modernism for the Future aims,” stated V. Migonytė-Petrulienė.

Original text by Jurgita Lieponė, journalist of 15min. You can find the text on 15min.lt website here.

Slow fashion designer V. Strasevičiūtė: “Clothes shopping is like a spreading virus. I’d love to take a glimpse at your wardrobe”

Do you renew the contents of your wardrobe each time shops have announcements for sales and the start of a new season? If yes, how much of your wardrobe’s clothing is unwanted and no longer worn? And are clothes really designed only for a single season? Slow fashion designer V. Strasevičiūtė suggests that sometimes we require very little – simply to think before making a purchase.

One of the slow fashion initiative’s Upcycled by LT creators, designer V. Strasevičiūtė, has been interested in fashion since childhood. To be exact, she had questions which we sometimes do not ask ourselves for years. Or do not ask at all. Vida has been working in the slow movement for eight years already. Last year, she joined Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 team and will become an ambassador, her message being sustainable consumption. Consumption culture, sustainability and sustainable consumption are one of Kaunas 2022 Programme’s focus areas: it is part of culture, and sustainable consumption enhances, fosters, conserves, and preserves the environment.

“My mother worked in the fur industry for many years, and during my childhood I would wander around her workplace. I would see how much raw material would be left over. I would also see how they would sew articles from scraps and would sell them cheaper – as if second-rate. It was very interesting to me, seemed paradoxical, that such an expensive material, which requires so much more handwork, is being sold cheaper,” contemplated V. Strasevičiūtė.

Vida, did the questions raised in your childhood dictate your life’s direction – you chose studies related to fashion?

I studied costume design and I have always been interested in issues created by the fashion industry. Intuitively. Eventually, I understood that my lifestyle embodied the term “slow fashion“. My interests, hobbies were to construct something, to create something from what is already there, and in that way to give it a second life. I started to delve deeper and search for examples of what is happening in the world, fashion industry, what are the solutions for using up scraps, remnants. I realised that this is a growing phenomenon in the world.

During study years, I started to experiment more with fur. Soon, I realised that the price of a product made of remnants and scraps can only be raised with the aid of design. That means that one must find new methods, new forms of expression. It is important not to waste the raw material. It is also important to value handwork. During research for my master’s thesis, I was able to meet with companies and see the amounts of leftovers post-production. That is how I chose this direction: to utilise that which is already there, and not to use anything new to produce another garment. Everything started with fur scraps, and later solutions were various. Now, we are working with wool remnants and other fabrics too.

Do you yourself notice a bigger interest? Who are your customers?

In our case, it is slightly complicated due to the use of real fur, its opposition in society. The task is a little more difficult because after hearing and seeing that it is real leather, many do not wish to listen any further, to learn that these are sheepskin scraps, which in other case would be wasted. However, we do our best not to waste the already existing raw materials. Fur is a very durable one. Many still own old fur coats in their wardrobes, and they feel bad about throwing them away because, after all, it is fur. To wear – the design is too outdated. That is why we provide another service: designing a new piece from what the client owns. This really paid itself off and more and more people are contacting us, asking to give an item a second life. Concerning selection, it is clear that people are becoming more conscious about the clothes’ history and handwork, it is becoming more important. And also, being an ambassador – you choose to breathe new life into an old item, not to purchase a new one.

Where can we browse your products?

On social media, the platform etsy.com, where you can find us by our name – Upcycled by LT.

You have said that our perception of clothing has become distorted so much so that the consequences are becoming catastrophic. What did you mean by that?

I am talking about mass consumption and about the fact that the market has normalised shopping without consideration for the manufacturer of the clothes, the material from which they are made, about following brands and the frenzied pace of fashion. The production of such clothing is increasing. The clothes are not yet sold out, but new ones are already arriving on the shelves. That is how pollution levels grow. My suggestion is for everyone to look at themselves and consider why, how many, and for how long the articles of clothing are being purchased. In England, research was conducted on how many garments people purchase, which they end up never wearing. According to previous research data, England spends 30 billion pounds per year for clothes which are not worn once. And these numbers are only growing, they reflect that the need to be clothed is being replaced by a mindless need to shop.

Clothes shopping is like a spreading virus. But why, for what? That is how clothing loses its primary purpose – only the wish to own more remains. This applies as much to fashion as to other industries.

If we look at large shopping centres, clothes shops dominate. What motivates us to purchase new clothes – just advertisements or certain root causes?

In terms of Lithuania, I believe that the historical roots run quite deep. For a long time, we have lived in times of deficit, when there was nothing. And then suddenly everything opened its doors. Besides the fact that the assortment is growing, dropping prices, of course, contribute to it too. That is when you start to feel almighty, and able to own everything, to own plenty. You are affluent in the number of items and clothes.

But I am pleased that in the public sphere and mass media sustainable fashion and consumption are increasingly more discussed. People look back and understand that they do not need this much, that trying to still this unquenchable thirst leads to us simply owning too much. And we no longer know what to do with these things. Then we throw them away. More and more people are beginning to understand that this is wrong. Pollution is enormous, and recycling of textile is an issue to which the solution is yet to be found.

Clothing retailers announce new seasons yearly. What is a new clothing season, and overall can a piece of clothing have its own season, finally – can it become worn out in such a short time?

It is an advertising trick because they must always renew, provide something fresh for people’s eyes in order to evoke the desire to buy. And the seasons... that is the key to fast fashion. And, let’s face it, they do not offer high-quality clothing. That is why often they last for only one season.

What is more, the number of seasons is not diminishing – there is more of them. Collections are being introduced in-between seasons, which are being constantly expanded and restocked. Before, there were two collections: fall-winter and spring-summer. Now up to 8 collections can be counted. It is absurd. However, fast fashion is not suitable for everyone. Research shows that more and more of smaller niche shops prove to be successful, which cater to relevant and timely customers’ needs.

Last year, together with the partner Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022, you have proposed an initiative Tvarink Spintą (Sustainable Wardrobe). That was clothes design for particular people according to their needs, problems which they face, using that which is around them. You have created looks for ten people of different professions, needs, and appearance. What kind of experience was it for you?

It was an experiment, very interesting and fun. When I was getting in touch with the Lithuanian Council of Culture for a grant, that is when the idea of this initiative was born. I realised that conveying my values and ideas to the broader public is quite difficult because the large ones often upstage us. But working with individual people by considering their practical needs and problems, offering alternative choices, solutions was interesting. To show that one can redesign that which they own, to create that which fits their figure, to use up remnants and scraps – I really felt that it left a strong impression.

After the project one of the participants brought me their old coat and said: “I thought about throwing it away, but you taught us that you mustn’t. So maybe something can be done with it?”. People realised that there is an alternative. Each of the project’s participants took away a certain experience. My goal was to make that experience as profound and memorable as possible. I wanted them to wear the clothes which they were bringing home with genuine pleasure and further spread the message of sustainable consumption, slow fashion.

After all, each of these ten participants have their own circle of people they interact with. Therefore, in daily situations or when asked, where this outfit is from, it will spread the idea of sustainability. In this way, awareness will spread through small steps.

What would you say to everyone considering sustainable consumption?

One thought, which is all-encompassing. All clothing can be sustainable if we all accept the responsibility to make sure it lasts as long as possible. If we ourselves become bored of it, perhaps we can offer it to one of our friends? Of course, there are charity funds, initiatives, where you can donate unwanted clothing. But often it is a riddance – it is as if you have done a good deed, but these garments are not necessarily needed by anyone.

That is why first we should offer it to our friends, to whom the clothes may fit and appeal. There also exist platforms, where one can sell, give away. Thus, such choices are the said responsibility of making clothing last as long as possible.

Does shopping in second-hand shops fall under the label of sustainability?

Yes, of course. I would consider the support of local producers, tailors, and designers as a sustainable choice as well. And, in a second-hand shop you might discover something which will surprise and remain in the wardrobe long-term. It is important to avoid the fast cycle, which is offered by shops.

Vida, if invited you over and showed my wardrobe, would you suggest what I could do with clothes I no longer wear?

You hit the nail on the head. The project’s Tvarink Spintą (Sustainable Wardrobe) direction was to work with individual people. I did not visit their homes. They would bring the clothes themselves. But I would gladly accept this wardrobe experiment. I’d love to take a glimpse at your wardrobe.

Original text by Jurgita Lieponė, journalist of 15min. You can find the original text in 15min.lt website here.

TẽKA team invites to explore the archives of river memory

Since 2016 operating partner of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture, cultural river research platform TẽKA, seeks to revitalise the life of Kaunas Region riversides and presents the virtual archive of Kaunas rivers, streams, and banks www.upynes.lt, which starts this year off with a gallery of findings in Kaunas City streams.

Even though rivers are often considered one of the constituents of Kaunas’ identity and individuality which formed the face of the country’s largest river centre for centuries, great physical changes in the 20th century (a hydroelectric power station was built) have destroyed the former urban, cultural, and social order, and at the same time transformed the unique Kaunas genius loci (spirit of the area). The imagery of Kaunas as a river port has nearly disappeared from the city’s cultural memory as well, it is remembered only by historians and the eldest member of society. Kaunas streams (at least 15 can be found in the city, not counting hundreds of smaller springs), in the meantime, were started to sewer between the world wars, and during the soviet years, as the city’s residential neighbourhoods were expanding, the larger part of Kaunas streams were already buried deep underground. Even the still unobstructed streambeds are currently hidden under the thick foliage of trees, shrubs and weeds, the banks are flanked with fences, littered with construction waste. Although the streams flow through an urban territory, cross industrial zones, residential areas, gardens and kitchen gardens, being lawless areas, streambeds usually only ‘serve’ the role of dumping grounds, which continue to carry waste to Nemunas, the Curonian Lagoon, the Baltic Sea.

In 2020 Autumn, Kaunasians were invited to natural exploratory expeditions through the forgotten city streams to familiarise with these urban city’s recesses. In total, six expeditions were organised, which trailed the streambeds and their valleys within the city’s range. Throughout the hike, the participants not only admired the wild and rarely seen scenery of the city, but also collected various natural and human activity denoting objects found in the rivers. The collected objects tell a wordless story of the inter-relationships between the city, people, and nature. These findings are now being exhibited in a virtual gallery, and in the upcoming year will be presented in a physical exhibition.

Exploratory expeditions through other streams of Kaunas City will also continue in 2021. Near some of the streams, workshops, artistic installations, and discussions with the community will be held, seeking answers on how city streams should be integrated into Kaunas’ life. Those who wish to receive more information or join next year’s activities should write to tekakrantine@gmail.com or contact facebook.com/tekakrantine

This website is part of 2020-2021 project UPYNĖS, which is implemented through the initiative of TẽKA together with Lithuanian Union of Architects Kaunas Department. The project is presented by Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.

Kortrijk and Kaunas become partners in creativity

Kortrijk will receive € 100,000 from the Flemish government for cooperation with the Lithuanian city of Kaunas in the run-up to Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022. With this, Kortrijk once again shows that it wants to gain this title itself for 2030.

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“New Reality”: Lithuanian creators presented architectural ideas for public and not public spaces

At the end of the last week, the winners of creative ideas workshops and competition “Adaptive Capsule” were announced. During “Kaunas Design Event” organised by “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022”, the participants had to create a transformable, closed communication spatial structure where at least 2 people could safely communicate at the same time. The proposed solutions were to meet the safety requirements of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Prototypes of one or more projects are expected to be developed as soon as possible.

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Designer Rama Gheerawo: ‘Why Sony, Samsung or Hewlett-Packard cares about Your oppinion’

Rama Gheerawo, a well-known designer and longtime director of the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design at the Royal College of Arts in London, England, believes that good design has to be inclusive. Only then design becomes more than aesthetic endeavor and can solve serious social issues. ‘Believe it or not, entrepreneurs, marketers, companies, organizations, governments don’t always do that, they don’t include citizens. They design something that they think you need rather than something that you actually want’, says Rama. During Kaunas Design Event at October 26 Rama Gheerawo will present good practices of the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design. In the following conversation, designer shares his insights about the functions of contemporary design and challenges designers face practicing inclusive design. Read more