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Urbanization and regional planning
A "Seven-Year Plan" was proclaimed in Lithuania in 1959, meant to be the most rapid and intensive period of modernization in Lithuanian history, from 1959 to 1965. In 1953 and 1954, after Stalin's death, it was recognized that the Soviet economy was lagging and ineffective. Critics pointed to an "uneven allocation of industrial capacity" and "an excessive concentration of industry in the larger cities." A regional planning principle was immediately adopted on a mass scale, including halting the growth of big cities, the creation of new satellite cities and the dispersion of large urban centers, a more intensive focus on the development of small and medium-sized cities, beginning with the construction of new industrial facilities in such areas, and the use of empty land for new residential housing.
So-called Sovnarkhozi (People's Economic Councils) were set up in each republic in 1957, charged with overseeing the development of industry and construction. It was hoped that territorial (local) administration would help accelerate the growth of industry and construction. Local technocrats enthusiastically welcomed the "Seven-Year Plan" in Lithuania, as it envisioned universal electrification and the construction of important industrial facilities, the development of old cities and the building of new ones, a rebirth of architectural modernism, and the overall modernization of the entire republic.
In later years, this short economic and administrative reform period was viewed as having been truly beneficial for Lithuania, since it brought about limited economic autonomy, a modernization of industry, an increase in the clout of local planners, and helped shape a local technocratic elite and an entire generation. Even after the dismantling of the Sovnarkhozi in 1965 and the return of control to central authorities in Moscow, the Lithuanian SSR retained a considerable amount of the ideas formed during this period of the "people's economy" and its own unique nostalgia for "economic autonomy."
One of the successfully implemented experiments that encouraged universal modernization was the territorial reorganization of the constituent republics. At the time, Lithuania was, in fact, lagging far behind Latvia and Estonia both in the level of industrialization and in the size of its urban population. In 1955, about 11% of the population in Estonia and Latvia worked in the industrial sector, while in Lithuania that number was only 5.86%. The urban population in Estonia at the time was 54.8%, 52% in Latvia, and only 34.6% in Lithuania. See Romualdas J. Misiūnas, Reinas Taagepera, Baltijos valstybės: priklausomybės metai 1940–1980  (Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940–1980), Vilnius: Mintis, 1992, p. 305, 308. In 1959, Soviet Lithuanian cities were home to 1,045,000 people, or 39% of the population. There were two large cities (Vilnius and Kaunas), 3 medium-sized cities (Klaipėda, Šiauliai, and Panevėžys) and 100 small cities that were mostly regional centers or city-type settlements. The Soviet-wide embrace of "regional planning" spurred the idea of balanced urbanization throughout the country. The thaw in the political climate as well as the enthusiasm of local planners played vital roles in this process.
An Urban Planning Department had already been founded in 1944 at Vytautas Magnus University, at the initiative of architect Steponas Stulginskis, and was headed after 1949 by Kazimieras Šešelgis. Kazimieras Šešelgis, Gyvenimas. Mokslo darbai, Vilnius: Technika, 2000, p. 259. The first theoretical proposals by those working in this field—Vytenis Gubavičius, Stulginskis, Šešelgis, and later Vaclovas Miliukštis, Vytautas Saunoris, and others—developed the concept of the country's integrated urbanization that specialists at the Architecture and Construction Institute used as the basis for a special regional planning program they drafted for the "Seven-Year Plan" in 1958.
Regional planning accelerated after the LSSR Planning Committee's official mandate in 1959 to prepare "the configuration of new industrial facilities to be constructed in the republic in the coming 20–25 year period" that clearly demonstrated that the program of balanced urbanization was based on a Soviet-wide directive for industrial development.
The culmination of all of this work was the approval in 1964 of the "Long-term plan for the distribution of industry and urban development", LKP CK ir LTSR MT 1964 03 30 nutarimas Nr. 155 „Dėl perspektyvinio miestų plėtimo ir pramonės išdėstymo Lietuvos TSR generalinės perspektyvos laikotarpiui“. See more about the plan in: Jonas Rudokas, Istorija, kuria galime didžiuotis (A History to Be Proud Of), Vilnius: Gairės, 2002, p. 79–142; Kazimieras Šešelgis, Gyvenimas. Mokslo darbai, p. 259–274. which outlined where to establish industrial sites and settlements, pave roads, how to use water resources, and how to resolve other matters associated with the country's urbanization and agricultural reform. According to this plan, it was decided to seek  balanced development in ten regional centers adhering to the principle that each region's radius would span approximately 50–60 km and consist of between 200,000 to 600,000 inhabitants, with each regional center having no less than 30,000 to 50,000 residents. It was held that "cities of such size can support a theatre, a large cultural center, as well as sports halls, libraries, and museums that would be accessible to the region's residents by road." Alfonsas Skupeika, Pramonės centrų ugdymas Tarybų Lietuvoje, Vilnius: [s. n.], 1969, p. 24.
Alongside the five major cities—Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Panevėžys—five additional industrial cities and regional centers were also designated as development priorities: Alytus, Marijampolė (then known as Kapsukas), Utena, Plungė, and Jurbarkas, and five more cities were designated as auxiliary industrial cities: Jonava, Kėdainiai, Mažeikiai, Švenčionėliai, and Rokiškis. It was also decided to deter the further growth of Vilnius and Kaunas by prohibiting the construction there of new industrial facilities and by limiting the further growth of existing industrial sites.
Regional planning and architectural modernization impacted rural Lithuania in 1958, with a push to enlarge kolkhozi (collective farms) and so-called Sovkhozi (Soviet farms) settlements (each ideally populated with at least 1,000 inhabitants). The settlements around each collective farm were categorized as "central" (home to all infrastructure, an administrative center, and, over time, all collective farm workers), "auxiliary" (containing only industrial operations and residences), and "non-developable" (i.e. considered unviable, with all residents to be relocated to a central settlement).
This approach to agricultural development in Soviet Lithuania was anchored in a 1960 decree by the LSSR Council of Ministers titled "Approval of instructions for the selection, design and construction of territory for rural settlements." The LSSR development plan envisioned the creation of 2,200 settlements (1,150 designated as "central" and more than 1,000 marked as "auxiliary") and classified 1,300 village communities as "non-developable."
An example of these changes is the Skaistgiris model settlement of the "Pergalė" (Victory) collective farm in Joniškis District, the first community to be organized according to the regional planning scheme. Its street network, community center, and residential zone were still laid out along a clear rectangular plan, with 1500-2500 square meter residential plots consisting of a garden and a freestanding one-story home or a two-story home. Residences had water, sanitation, central heating, electricity, as well as radio and telephone service.
Also noteworthy was the effort to "improve the esthetics of the rural settlement" in Skaitsgiris in 1964 with the launch of a park devoted exclusively for recreational purposes, meant to add variety to a uniform and monotonous landscape. This later inspired the incorporation of parks in all collective farm settlements.
Industrialization of residential architecture
In 1956 and 1957 3–4 story residential buildings were still being built from brick and mason blocks according to the "1-431" series of standard designs although official directives increasingly turned to the question of industrializing residential housing. The main construction methods, materials, and structures remained traditional: brickwork and plaster over a brick frame, finished with a ratio of narrow windows and wide walls suitable for interior decor. Traditional pitched roofs were made of wooden frames and covered in tile or tin.
Recognizing the laggard state of residential housing technology, the Soviet Council of Ministers began sending delegations of Soviet architects and construction engineers to Western Europe (Scandinavia in particular) where they visited new residential neighborhoods, state construction design organizations, the newest construction material producers, and architectural exhibitions, returning home with technical literature (sketches, rules and standards, product catalogues), photographs, and filmed material.
These visits had a huge influence on the design of new Soviet residential communities. Delegation reports were required to be sent to the chairmen of every constituent Soviet republic's Council of Ministers and People's Economic Council (who would then circulate them to architectural affairs councils and architects' unions), while the State Committee for Construction (Gosstroy) was tasked with introducing progressive methods throughout the Soviet manufacturing and construction industries.
In 1959, the USSR Academy for Construction and Architecture published a book titled Types of Residential Homes and Apartments Abroad: Multi-Unit Residential Construction, while Soviet architectural magazines and books began featuring respectful reviews of examples of new, Western functionalist urban planning.
Finally, the first large-panel, multi-unit apartment complex in the Soviet Union was designed in 1956 by architects from the USSR Academy for Construction and Architecture and the "Gosstroyproyekt" All-Union Urban Construction Design Institute, based on a model by French engineer Raymond Camus. It served as the foundation for a series of design templates for 3, 4, and 5-story standard apartment buildings in 1957 for the Soviet Union generally.
The first experimental, prefabricated large-panel residential building designs were conceived at the Lithuanian Lietprojektas design institute in 1956, 1957, and 1958. A book by Jokūbas Peras, Daugiabutis gyvenamas namas (Multi-Unit Residential Housing), showcasing all the different visions of future residential construction, appeared in 1958. Jokūbas Peras, Daugiabutis gyvenamasis namas, Vilnius: Valstybinė politinės ir mokslinės literatūros leidykla, 1958, p. 34. 
The first industrial residential buildings and their alternatives
The first results of the construction industrialization program emerged in 1959, when ground was broken for new factories meant to produce prefabricated concrete residential building components. The first five-story large-panel residential buildings designed according to plans approved by the USSR Design Institute "Giprostroyindustria" were built in 1959 on Partizanų (now Naugarduko) Street in Vilnius, next to the Drill Factory. These were 60 and 80-unit standard five storey buildings (with four apartments per section arranged around a stairwell), constructed from reinforced concrete sandwich panels.
The first experimental designs for pre-fabricated panel residential buildings were prepared by Lietprojektas in 1956, 1957, and 1958. Jokūbas Peras' book Daugiabutis gyvenamas namas (Multi-unit Residential Housing) appeared in 1958, including a comprehensive set of conceptual plans for future residential housing.
As the new residential construction system was introduced in the USSR, the design and construction system in both Moscow and in all of the constituent Soviet republics had to be reformed in order to ensure the uninterrupted production and assembly of prefabricated components flowing to construction sites. Concrete structure and residential construction factories were established in five construction zones in the Lithuanian SSR (Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai, Klaipėda, and Panevėžys) between 1958 and 1965, accompanied by the development of production of such construction materials as silicate blocks and their derivatives. Improvement of construction material quality and technology became a central task. Not surprisingly, then, esthetics became of secondary importance.
During this phase of the standardization process, the improvement of residential housing architecture and apartment planning became one of the most important tasks facing Lithuanian architects. The design of large-panel residential buildings and the "localization" (adapting plans to a given construction site) of standardized designs (classified as the "1605" and "1-464" series, to be applied Soviet Union-wide) in the Lithuanian SSR was allocated to the "Lietprojektas" standardized design unit.
At a competition held in Moscow in 1960, an experimental design by Lithuanian architects appeared alongside others authored by Czech, Hungarian, Polish, East German, and Soviet planners. Though Lithuanians may not have been the stars in Moscow, architect Brėdikis recalls that the competition still left a huge impression and the opportunity to learn more about innovative designs and models became the first impetus toward modern residential urban planning. Interview with architect Vytautas Brėdikis, recorded by Marija Drėmaitė, 2011.
The considerable debate taking place in the professional publications of the day illustrated the efforts of Lithuanian architects to avoid the use of "bare" standardized plans. Instead, standard designs were adjusted and improved. There were are also some efforts made to create a series of residential building designs for the Baltic countries, incorporating materials typical to the region. Architect Vytautas Edmunas Čekanauskas remembers:
We wanted to improve the buildings in Lazdynai by changing those horrible Russian designs. An internal mini-competition was even organized [at the Institute] to see what could be done with those standardized buildings. Interview with Vytautas Edmundas Čekanauskas, recorded by Marija Drėmaitė, December 11, 2006. 
The construction of free-standing, individual one family homes was a fairly frequent occurrence in the Lithuanian SSR during the early Soviet period, particularly on the outskirts and beyond the capital city limits. Once industrialized mass construction began in 1958, the building of such homes was prohibited for a time in Vilnius and Kaunas, and strictly limited in smaller cities.  LKP Centro Komiteto ir Ministrų Tarybos 1962 09 10 nutarimas Nr. 592 „Dėl individualinės ir kooperatinės gyvenamųjų namų statybos“. But smaller cities and resort towns had certain advantages in this respect.
Many individual, free-standing homes were built in the Lithuanian provinces, however such construction was subjected to very strict limitations on the size of homes (not to exceed 60 square meters of living space) and any adjacent household structures. The greatest problem, however, was the shortage of construction materials. They were nearly impossible to obtain officially and fines were imposed on any building materials not obtained in a store. Residents "finagled" materials by various means: stealing from construction sites and producers, or by obtaining them illegally.


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Sources and links

LKP CK ir LTSR MT 1964 03 30 nutarimas Nr. 155 „Dėl perspektyvinio miestų plėtimo ir pramonės išdėstymo Lietuvos TSR generalinės perspektyvos laikotarpiui“
"Šiaurės modernizmo įtaka 'lietuviškajai architektūros mokyklai' 1956–1969 m."
Menotyra, 2011, t. 18, Nr. 4, p. 308–328
Baltijos valstybės: priklausomybės metai 1940–1980
Vilnius: Mintis, 1992
Daugiabutis gyvenamasis namas
Vilnius: Valstybinė politinės ir mokslinės literatūros leidykla, 1958
Istorija, kuria galime didžiuotis
Vilnius: Gairės, 2002
Pramonės centrų ugdymas Tarybų Lietuvoje
Vilnius: [s. n.], 1969
Gyvenimas. Mokslo darbai
Vilnius: Technika, 2000
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