Vilnius City Municipality has announced an international contest to design a landmark new €52 million concert venue (Deadline: 25 June)
The single-stage competition seeks ‘innovative, quality, and unique’ proposals to replace the Lithuanian capital’s abandoned Soviet-era Trade Union House (pictured) with a major new cultural venue featuring a 1,500-to-1,700 capacity auditorium.
The project, planned to complete in 2023, will create a new headquarters for the Baltic state’s symphony orchestra and other classical companies on the prominent Taurus Hill overlooking the River Neris. Proposals must also include a smaller 500-capacity hall; a ‘House of Nation’ space dedicated to public, educational and cultural uses; and a strategy for the surrounding parkland.
Trade Union House on Taurus Hill
The Trade Union House was constructed on a prominent site on Taurus Hill, previously earmarked for a national cultural centre during the republic’s brief period of independence before it was annexed by the Soviet Union. The building features several protected stained-glass windows.
The new concert venue is intended to realise Lithuania’s original ambitions for the site.
The call for submissions comes a year and a half after UK practices Adam Khan Architects and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios were among three teams named joint-winners in an international contest to design a £26.4 million concert hall in Lithaunia’s second city, Kaunas.
The latest competition – tol be conducted in both English and Lithuanian – is endorsed by the UIA and organised by the Architects Association of Lithuania (AAL) on behalf on the Vilnius City Municipal Administration and Lithuania‘s Ministry of Culture.
Anonymous submissions must include a written report of up to 14 A4 pages and six B1 sized display sheets featuring plans, diagrams and illustrations. Applications will be judged on their originality, urban quality, overall concept, economic feasibility and acoustics.
The jury will be chaired by Ole Gustavsen of Snøhetta and will also include Mindaugas Pakalnis from the Vilnius City Municipality’s Development Department; Fabrizio Barozzi of Spanish practice Barozzi/Veiga; and Xander Vermeulen Windsant from Austrian studio XVW.
Serban Tiganas, general secretary of the International Union of Architects (UIA) said: ‘It is a unique idea and a perfect opportunity for architects from all over the world to contribute to the creation of Vilnius history. It requires great responsibility and it is also difficult to organise international competitions of this type.
‘However, as history shows, this particular method of organising an architectural design competition can lead to success. In cooperation with the [AAL], UNESCO has done everything it could to make conditions for such contests possible. I see today as a historical day to Vilnius since the building is seeing the start of its history. I regret only about one thing regarding this competition, namely, that I cannot take part in this contest.’
The overall winner, to be announced in September, will receive a €60,000 top prize while a second prize of €40,000 and third prize of €20,000 will also be awarded.
How to apply
The deadline for applications is 25 June
Senior Specialist of the City Development Planning Department
Vilnius City Municipality
Konstitucijos Ave. 3
Tel: +370 52112579
Q&A with Rūta Leitanaitė
The president of AAL discusses her ambitions for the competition
Why are your holding an international contest for a new National Concert Hall in Vilnius?
The ambition of Vilnius City Municipality (contracting authority for the competition) is to build a concert hall that would not only fulfil the standards of contemporary concert hall, but would also become a landmark for quality architecture in the city and a symbol for the values of a European, democratic city. Therefore, a competition was chosen as the most efficient way to select the best architectural ideas.
The idea of UIA-UNESCO competition came about through collaboration between the client and our association. AAL has been a member of UIA for more than 20 years. Since 1956, when the regulation for international competitions in architecture and urban planning was ratified by UNESCO, UIA-UNESCO competitions have earned a reputation as high-quality, transparent, efficient, procedures, oriented towards design-quality and innovation. It is kind of a quality mark for participating architects as well.
It is shown through the history of UIA-UNESCO competitions, that this kind of procedure attracts the best architects from all the world and results in great architectural outcomes. The participation of both local and foreign architects is very welcome in this competition – as it’s not every day when one can design a concert hall of national importance and the client can actually build it. The more quality ideas the competition receives, the more possibilities we have choose a concept which is most suitable for Vilnius.
What is your vision for the newly transformed historic building?
Trade Union House
The quality of both architecture and innovation are of the utmost importance for this project. The building will stand on one of the most visible spots of Vilnius. It should contribute to an image of Vilnius and the Lithuanian state and deliver an ambitious, contemporary, democratic venue where culture, art, history and people are the priorities. Of course, it should also become an important spot in the global map of the most desirable musical venues for performers. Therefore, it must be added, that the acoustic solutions of the grand hall will be very carefully evaluated.
The existing Trade Union House was built in Soviet times. Today it is a derelict symbol of its former occupants’ architecture, imposed on Vilnius’ landscape. It is not listed for heritage protection, and there are preliminary plans to demolish it (they will be confirmed or cancelled after the competition). The competition brief doesn’t require to eliminate or to save the building – the participants are free to choose what to do.
The site is located on top of Taurus Hill, the second biggest (and very visible) hill in Vilnius. The silhouette of the hill is protected and cannot be altered. According to existing detailed plan defining the possible parameters of the future building, it should not exceed the height of the existing Trade Union house and the whole program should fit within the limits of the site. An additional underground floor for logistics may be added.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The competition is open to architects from all over the world. The only request for participants is to have at least one person in their team that has the right to provide architectural services in his/her country of residence.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Design competition culture has been getting momentum in Lithuania recently and has been applied to both publicly procured and private commissions. In 2019, besides the competition for the National Concert Hall, AAL will organize a competition for a new school in Vilnius, and two more competitions in Vilnius (most probably, urban and public space competitions which have remain to be confirmed). AAL has also recently launched a competition for the reconstruction of the Lithuanian Bank HQ in Vilnius, and for the multifunctional St. Jacob’s quarter backed by a private client. Also, some additional new design competitions and urban workshops are also on the way.