This hybrid of skatepark, playground and urbane living room has now opened – the perfect venue for a young, dynamic society. What was previously a largely unused space adjoined by historical buildings is now becoming a new, inviting public amenity where you can casually enjoy a coffee in your lunch break or get some work done outdoors while children play in the water, young people skate and students relax in the sun… This is certainly the new now in Kaunas, a city in Lithuania which, with the help of 3deluxe, has brought to life a future-oriented architectural concept that sets new impulses and is geared towards the communicative needs of a young and dynamic generation.
The history-steeped “Unity Square” with its impressive buildings from different eras has been redesigned to reflect the innovative spirit of a country considered to be a pioneer of digitization. The extraordinary design sets off the extensive façades to bright and cheerful effect, creates modern workspaces, and uses organically shaped green spaces, curved pathways, seating levels and the latest technology to transform the space into inspiring terrain with an urban ambiance.
The real challenge was to preserve cultural heritage while creating space for social transformation. And the solution was innovative architecture that caters to the needs of today’s society: bright, friendly, open and connecting.
Back in 2016 3deluxe was commissioned with the complete transformation of the central square, together with the buildings that adjoin it on its eastern side – three new builds and two renovations, along with an underground garage that extends beneath the entire square.
Here, 3deluxe is creating an exciting ensemble featuring various architectural interpretations of the different eras that define the city. Hence, for example, the new corner building is an homage to Lithuania’s Art Deco heritage. With its rounded and organically shaped glass fronts and the elongated façade, the corner building is quite captivating thanks to its elegant simplicity and flowing forms. Here, the coming together of old and new building cultures is celebrated rather than concealed. Extensive glazing and unfussy design meet detailed window frontage featuring applied decoration inspired by the façades of the neighboring historical buildings.
The central new-build block reflects the city’s Bauhaus tradition and forges a clear link to the now modernized dual ensemble that so epitomizes the International Style of the early 1960s. The redesign of the façade picks up on the aesthetic simplicity to be found in this Baltic testimony to mid-century Modern, with a pronounced Cubist design vocabulary and clear lines.
An elongated roof pavilion covers both the newly built and the renovated structures and thus melds different styles to create a new whole.
The roof pavilion incorporates a roof terrace that stretches the entire length of the complex – a green oasis offering a magnificent view of the whole city.The redesign of the interiors likewise emphasizes the idea of connection, since all the buildings are linked internally. Extensive lobbies, atriums and open workspaces permit straightforward communication as well as concentrated and creative work. Meanwhile, shops, cafés and restaurants inject further life into this modern, agile world of work and the lively, urban leisure society.
A historical square is transformed: 3deluxe initially developed two design levels that structure the entire surface as a grid made up of visible lines on the ground. One is linear and forms the historical context, in which the existing axes of vision and movement are taken into account. The other level is designed to be organic and fluid, reflecting the natural flows of movement of passers-by.
This structuring gives rise not only to pathways, but also to natural islands, which are enlivened in different ways: a green lawn for sunbathing, a skate park, a programmed fountain complex or a modern event venue.
The natural result is an organic, landscape-like arrangement comprising dynamic thoroughfares, staggered seating and steps, and gently sloping green spaces and water features that connect the different height levels of the square in a seemingly obvious way. The materials used form a welcoming interplay of light granite, wood, and elaborately modelled elements made of white molded concrete. The choice of plants for the green spaces is based on the local flora. Native pine and birch along with insect-friendly grasses and shrubs form the basis of the greening concept.
An artificial stream meanders through the organic concrete landscape with wooden islands, inviting visitors to linger and play, while an interactive fountain installation enlivens the large, flat open space in the square, which can also be used for events, festivals and markets.
The man who is funding the transformation of the square is a passionate skateboarder and wanted to offer skate enthusiasts a new home in the city, hence large parts of the square are laid out to be skater-friendly too. Specialists in skate park construction were therefore brought on board to help realize the challenging free forms developed by 3deluxe.
Another addition, lying opposite the new corner building, is a modern amphitheater, and the frontage facing it can be outfitted with a giant LED screen for public viewings when required.
On this basis, additional mobile elements will be used to bring further life to the square: a pavilion that can be planted in various ways as an urban gardening project, changing installations such as kiosks, food trucks and mobile seating, and a temporary event stage.
All in all, it’s a square to bring people together, to create new opportunities, and to improve the quality of life for people in Kaunas.
Discipline: Rebirth Project–Urban Development
Developer: SBA Group
Location: Vienybės aikštė, 44029, Kaunas
Start of planning: first quarter 2015
Construction period: November 2017–March 2020
Completion: May 2020
Buildings: 16 862 m2
Photogarphy: Norbert Tukaj