Exhibition Architecture of Optimism: The Kaunas Phenomenon, 1918–1940


With Kaunas interwar architecture receiving European Heritage Label and since the application is prepared for it to be included into the UNESCO World Heritage List, raising awareness about this architectural heritage is becoming increasingly more relevant. When submitting this application for the UNESCO World Heritage List, the most important thing is international promotion campaign and well-formulated descriptions of the exceptional public value of the object to be submitted. Currently the introduction of modernist architecture of Kaunas (1918–1940) in the international context lacks critical approach, a comparative study and conceptual insights that would define the global dimension of the architecture in Kaunas. In order to encourage national and international discussions about the phenomenon of Kaunas as the modernist capital, an exhibition project has been designed.


The exhibition is dedicated to the centenary of the Restoration of Lithuania’s Statehood, since Kaunas modernist architecture of the interwar period is a great reflection of that political, social, economic and cultural optimism that was characteristic to the capitals of newly established and restored states at that time. This part of the heritage of Kaunas architecture is little known in Europe, so the exhibition emphasises the phenomenon of rapid modernist transformation of Kaunas, when in 1919, the city unexpectedly became the capital of the Republic of Lithuania and changed its identity radically: it took less than twenty years for its residents to build almost 12 000 new buildings and turn Kaunas into a modern, elegant and European capital. This architecture remained an important symbol of statehood during the Soviet times, and for contemporary Kaunas, interwar architecture heritage is also an important source of identity.

The final outcome of the project is an international travelling exhibition dedicated to modernism architecture in Kaunas and adapted for transportation and presentation in various spaces. The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive book (in Lithuanian and English) published in collaboration with Lapas publishing house. It is prepared by eight authors (Marija Drėmaitė (editor), Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Vaidas Petrulis, Vilma Akmenytė-Ruzgienė, Norbertas Černiauskas, Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis, Arvydas Pakštalis, Viltė Migonytė-Petrulienė). Abundant archival illustrations aside, the book also features works by contemporary photographers of architecture, Gintaras Česonis and Norbertas Tukaj (book designers Linas Gliaudelis and Jurga Dovydėnaitė). The symbol of the exhibition is visualisation of the logo with enlarged letter O and bright yellow colour (graphic designer Linas Gliaudelis).

Authors / partners

Curators and authors of project exhibition: Assoc. Prof. Marija Drėmaitė, Prof. Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Assoc. Prof. Vaidas Petrulis, Liudas Parulskis, Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis, Lukas Šiupšinskas; architecture and design: Ieva Cicėnaitė, Matas Šiupšinskas, Linas Gliaudelis.

The exhibition is organised by Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO. It is funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and Lithuania Culture Support Fund. Strategic partner of the project – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, National Gallery of Art, VšĮ “Kaunas 2022”.

Route in 2018

14.02–18.03 National Gallery of Art, Vilnius

02.04–09.04 UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

0.04–24.04 Regione Lombardia Hall, Milan

03.05–12.05 Music Hall “Auditorium Parco della Musica” (at the festival “Flux. Festival Lituano delle Arte 2018″), Rome

24.05–16.06 National Library of Estonia, Tallinn

28.06–14.10 Museum of Architecture in Wrocław

15.11–10.12 BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels

Route in 2019

15.02–17.03 City Museum, Gdynia

24.09–23.10 Gallery Maison de L’Architecture, Grenoble

Route in 2021

11.12–09.01 Gallery „Kolektiv Cité Radieuse” – Unité d’Habitation Le Corbusier, Marseille

Curator of the program:

Viltė Migonytė-Petrulienė

[email protected]