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Approaches to Residential Architecture
The Communist Party's 1957 resolution "On the Development of Residential Construction in the USSR" and its inherent promise to provide an apartment to every Soviet family was the essential driver of the urban development process in the Soviet Union. The resolution included the now famous utopian undertaking to eradicate the Soviet housing shortage within 10 to 12 years. The construction of multi-story, prefabricated concrete panel apartment blocks was seen as the only way to ensure the success of this policy. Soviet urban planners successfully adapted Western European technological solutions and "launched" the production of standardized residential housing in 1959. Standards for the new buildings were regulated by so-called SNIP's (the Russian acronym for "stroitelni normi i pravila" – Construction Rules and Regulations) that were updated very infrequently.
Four different generations of construction can be identified in the course of Soviet mass-produced residential development. In the late 1950s, the prevailing design was a five-story structure nicknamed the "Khrushchyovka" (series 1605, 1-464), after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. These buildings consisted of extremely "frugal" apartments: one resident was to be allocated 9 m2 of living space, with most buildings made up of 1-2 room units (since what was most important was for each family to have its own individual apartment, however small). Larger, 2-3 room apartments (and in rare cases, 4-room units) most often featured pass-through rooms. Small kitchens (4.5-6 m2) were intended solely for the preparation of food, and baths and toilets were located together in one designated room. The standard interior height of the apartments reached 2.5 meters – somewhat lower than the standard imposed on Stalin-era apartments.
The only effective way to introduce improvements to the Soviet residential housing system was through so-called experimental design. The Vilnius Urban Construction Design Institute set up a special office for this purpose in 1960. From 1960 to 1965, a group of young architects (Gediminas Valiuškis, Algimantas and Vytautas Nasvytis, and Enrikas Tamoševičius) drew up the first experimental plans for apartment units that could be divided by light sliding partitions or room dividers that also served as closets, allowing for different configurations of the apartment.
The search for diverse architectural approaches to panel apartment blocks was also evident in designs by Tamoševičius and engineer Mindaugas Bilevičius for twelve and nine-story residential buildings. Apartment houses based on the latter design were implemented in 1964 in the Vilnius suburb of Žirmūnai and along Raudonosios Armijos (now Savanorių) Avenue. The great majority of the experimental designs were never utilized, however, or were implement with considerable modifications.
A design prepared in 1967 under the direction of architect Bronius Krūminis of the Urban Construction Design Institute (and including work by Algimantas Umbrasas, Vidas Sargelis, and engineer Vaclovas Zubrus) – a second-generation series of 5, 9, and 12-story apartment buildings (designated as 1-464-LI) intended only for construction in Lithuania – is perhaps the most successful example of experimental panel housing architecture. The design initiative was the result of an opportunity to construct new, experimental housing in the Lazdynai residential zone. The "Lithuanian series," based on a standard wall length of 3.20 meters, developed 1, 2, 3, and 4-room apartment units (with a maximum 60 square meters of living space) that included many improvements: a reduction in the number of pass-through rooms, baths located separately from toilets, more comfortable kitchens, and enclosed gallery rooms instead of balconies.
The improvement of residential architecture and apartment design became an important challenge for Lithuanian architects, even though the field was not considered prestigious. In 1973, Bronius Krūminis' group created the third-generation 120V series of panel housing, distinguished by more façade relief detail, corner balconies, and larger service rooms and kitchens. The design was also used as the basis for the 120K series, intended for Kaunas.
The series illustrates the architects' desire to make apartment planning more convenient and to bring greater volumetric diversity to the façades of the buildings. Within the confines of standardized planning, these efforts constituted small steps toward addressing the problems of architectural monotony and improved apartment quality. At a 1981 conference on "The Development and Future of Industrial Multi-Unit Apartment Construction and Architecture," colleagues reviewed Krūminis' work, commenting that an architect's hand was most clearly evident in three building series (1-464LI, 120V, and 120K).
There are also elements of regionalism evident in the mass-produced residential architecture of the late 1970s and early 1980s. For example, a set of residential apartment buildings designed for Klaipėda in 1980 (part of the fourth generation of panel housing series) incorporated a central rhythm of corner balconies and enclosed terraces with red brick ornamentation, considered to be an accent style typical of the Klaipėda region. The Baltic port city's variable climate was also taken into account: terrace balconies were designed that could be transformed into enclosed glass verandas. Another innovation in mass-produced apartment construction was the introduction of a 11 m2 hall leading to the apartment balcony, heated attics, prefabricated roofs without rolled covering, and more spacious kitchens (8,67 m2).
Though architects in other Soviet republics began to shun mass construction projects and yield the initiative to engineers, the design of panel housing in Lithuania was always overseen by professional architects. Within the overall context of mass-produced residential housing in the USSR, this effort by Lithuanian architects was rather rare. Despite standardization and faced with a very limited choice of materials and building types, they continued to seek ways to improve the living environment of mass-produced architecture.
New Cities and "Microdistricts"
Mass-produced residential architecture in Soviet Lithuania was an integral part of the nationwide Soviet context and its standards. Nevertheless, Lithuania was also able to take advantage of unique local circumstances that afforded architects some leeway in the introduction of improvements to residential construction and even the ability, for a limited time, to set new trends in residential urban planning. The design process of modern residential districts accelerated after the 1958 conference of the International Architects' Union in Moscow, which focused on the question of urban reconstruction.
The first thing to change was the idea of what a residential district, or quarter, should look like. New residential housing was to be grouped together into large, functionally zoned "mikroraions" (microdistricts or suburbs), home to 9,000 to 12,000 inhabitants. A new tiered system of public cultural and domestic services was introduced. The core unit of the microdistrict was a group of residential buildings arrayed around a primary services center (a small, 1-2 story store that had previously always been located on the first floor of an apartment building).
The new microdistrict would consist of several such groupings of buildings, serviced by daycare centers, schools, and shopping centers. Several microdistricts, in turn, would be joined together to create a new residential neighborhood, with its own central shopping and recreation center (for culture and sports), a medical services building, and other similar public facilities.          
The composition of urban planning also changed, abandoning the system of constructing housing along the perimeter of a city block in favor of a more freestyle arrangement of structures, allowing for the preservation of the surrounding natural landscape. Green zones were introduced between buildings and roadways and pedestrian walkways wound through interior courtyards and between groups of buildings and microdistricts.
The first city to be constructed in Lithuania based on these new principles of Soviet modernism was Elektrėnai, a settlement founded in 1960 for the workers employed in a new thermal power plant nearby (architects: Birutė Kasperavičienė and Kazimieras Bučas). The core of the city was made up of three streets joined together into one ring. A complex of administrative, cultural, and service buildings was placed at the center of the city, including: two children's daycare centers, a grade school and a technical school; a cultural hall with a widescreen cinema house; a department store, grocery store, cafeteria, and domestic supply store; a hotel, clinic, and a full-service hospital located slightly further from the center. This central core was surrounded by 4, 5 and 9-story residential apartment buildings arranged freely on stretches of green lawn and park areas.
A modern city for four thousand inhabitants (growing to 8,000 by 1980) was built using modern industrial methods: among the first concrete panel multi-unit apartment buildings were constructed here in 1960. The designs for Elektrėnai also incorporated the modernist urban planning goal of varied use of the natural landscape: a park and sports complex was opened on the shores of the dammed Anykšta Lake (today called Elektrėnų Marios, or Elektrėnai Lagoon), and much attention was devoted to forestation and green spaces.
Though most public buildings in Elektrėnai were constructed according to standardized plans, there were examples of uniquely designed buildings. The young architect Leonas Mardosas designed a Scandinavian style modernist 964-student capacity high school based on a skeleton construction, for which he received an award in 1962 at a review of designs by young Soviet architects. The school design was later adopted as a standardized model. The Elektrėnai Ice Arena and its unique dome was also a standout, based on designs by the arena company's engineer Valevičius. For a time, the city of Elektrėnai became a model for urban planners throughout the Soviet Union tasked with designing new settlements to service state electrical power facilities.
In Vilnius, the industrial construction of residential housing took on new momentum in 1962, when planning commenced for the development of new areas of land to the north of the Neris River's left bank. The result was Žirmūnai, a new residential district for 45,000 inhabitants, the first housing community to be designed on a open plan. Žirmūnai consisted of three microdistricts, each with its core set of standardized buildings: community centers, daycare facilities, schools, and grocery stores.
The first microdistrict (D-18) also became the most famous for its exemplary development. Its designer, Birutė Kasperavičienė, freely arranged five-story apartment houses around several courtyards within a narrow, 1.5-kilometer long strip of land. In seeking to create a diverse skyline for the microdistrict, Žirmūnai also included nine-story panel buildings (designed by Tamoševičius in 1964) made up entirely of one-room apartment units, based on the social theory that single people and small families are best grouped together to live in taller structures.
The center of the new district featured a two-story community building, the "Žirmūnai" center, with stores, a restaurant, and a library in modern surroundings (architect: A. Aronas, 1969). The center soon became a model for other such complexes that sprang up in many microdistricts around Lithuania. When the design for Žirmūnai was awarded a USSR State Prize for design in 1968, it was the first time that a mass-produced residential and urban planning project had been so honored, contributing to a rise in the prestige of Lithuanian architects and demonstrating a new direction of standardized, modern residential housing construction. The Žirmūnai project was also showcased in L‘Architecture d‘aujourd‘hui as an example of modern Soviet residential architecture. „Quartier de Girmounai, Vilnius, Lituanie“, in: L‘Architecture d‘Aujourd‘hui, 1969–1970, Nr. 147, p. 58–60.
Celebrated and Award-Winning Lazdynai
Designed by architects Vytautas Edmundas Čekanauskas and Vytautas Brėdikis and built from 1967 to 1973, Lazdynai was one of the first Vilnius neighborhoods constructed based on the example of new suburbs appearing elsewhere in Europe. The new district was based on a system of ring roads and groups of residential buildings freely arranged around semi-open courtyards and distributed within a natural pine forest spread across a complex terrain. The multi-tiered public service system was successfully implemented in Lazdynai: 40,000 people settled into four microdistricts, each with its own complex of stores, daycare facilities, schools, and community centers. Indeed, the new suburb incorporated genuinely innovative solutions for terrain construction and preservation of the natural environment. The designers of Lazdynai succeeded in bringing architectural compositional diversity to the new community, where one could feel the influence of such Stockholm suburbs as Vällingby and Farsta.
From the start, Čekanauskas and Brėdikis devoted considerable time and effort to finding the right location for the new community – an area with rolling hills and pine groves – that would become the basis for the urban development plan. Lazdynai also marked the first instance when residential buildings were built along a considerably sloping terrain, a factor that caused understandable problems during planning meetings with the Vilnius Housing Construction Factory. Čekanauskas recalls:
There was that [Director] Liubeckis, who had contempt for everyone, yelling at everybody – all the other managers were afraid to go see him. For some reason, though, he was better with me. He'd offer me coffee, we'd talk, and then he'd ask: 'So. What do you need?' So I'd ask for something, and he'd dole out orders. In other words, he respected me as an architect, so he'd talk with me in a different tone. Maneuvering among all the directors was our daily bread. Interview with Vytautas Edmundas Čekanauskas, recorded by Marija Drėmaitė, December 11, 2006. 
Despite these difficulties, architects succeeded in creating an urban diversity of building height and volume characteristic of Scandinavian residential quarters. In 1969, Lazdynai featured 15 different types of buildings from the 1-464-LI series, including previously unseen five-story units of an angled configuration, five and nine-story buildings that decreased in height by a sequence of terraces, and the inclusion of vertical accent structures such as the tower-like sixteen and twelve-story apartment blocks. These latter buildings were purely aesthetic and compositional solutions, since panel tower structures had been judged to be ineffective (which is why later sixteen-story buildings were built from monolithic reinforced concrete).
The Lazdynai development was also notable for its public buildings. The young architect Česlovas Mazūras designed an innovative, non-standard school for the community. Architects also individualized standard shopping centers built in each microdistrict with unique features. The overall plan had also envisioned the construction of a modern community facility, complete with sports courts and an exhibition center, at the foot of the new neighborhood, and designers planned to have all pedestrian pathways lead to a main district cultural and shopping center suspended over one of the community's major thoroughfares (Kosmonautų, now Laisvės Avenue). This impressive central building, designed by Mazūras, was an obvious parallel to the Swedish regional center of Vällingby "suspended" over metro lines. Unfortunately, the project ran out of funds before the new community cultural center could be built.
Natural surroundings, buildings of varying heights and arrangements, preserved natural and specially designed new green spaces combined with pedestrian pathways, walls using natural stone, and modern sculptures all helped to give the new suburb a Scandinavian feel. According to Čekanauskas, after seeing Lazdynai, an influential senior architect from Moscow remarked: "the terrain has been utilized successfully." Though it soon became overused, this one phrase helped Lazdynai to become both a standard for Soviet urban planning as well as a model and example for the entire Eastern Bloc. In 1974, the Lazdynai district was awarded the Lenin Prize, the first time such a prestigious state award had been given to a mass housing urban planning project. According to the tradition at the time, awards were given to designers as well as administrators and construction managers. The award-winning Lazdynai team consisted of: architect Brėdikis, construction engineers Algimantas Kleinotas and Vincentas Šileika, Senior Architect of the Urban Construction Design Institute Vytautas Balčiūnas, Vilnius City Senior Valiuškis, and Project Senior Architect Čekanauskas.
Despite this honorable recognition, Lazdynai also presents paradoxes. Firstly, this new district, inspired by Western modernism and conceived and designed as a means of opposing Soviet dullness, not only became a recognized standard, but also a cleverly exploited propaganda tool to promote modern Soviet architectural advancements abroad and at home, where the monotony of standardized residential districts was already coming under criticism. Lazdynai seemed like an assurance that industrial mass construction still had an optimistic future. Also, for Lithuanian architects, Lazdynai was a symbol of the Western modernist spirit and the hope for improved residential architecture. Today, however, this district symbolizes one more Soviet residential community (however well planned) built from poor construction materials and testifying to the grip of an all-powerful system of mass-produced and standardized construction. Later designs for other new microdistricts were no longer able to reach such levels of modernist optimism. At the same time, economic demands were increasingly tighter, placing priority on increasing the limits of building density and height.
Rural Modernization and Urbanization
An examination of rural urbanization in the Soviet Union reveals two clear ideological objectives: first, the eradication of privately owned, single-family farmsteads, and second, the "convergence" of cities and villages meant to promote the consolidation of small villages and farmsteads into "city-like settlements." Rural urbanization was to take place entirely through a process of agricultural collectivization. Workers on large collective Collective FarmsCollective farms, or kolkhozi (from the Russian words for "collective farming") were Soviet agricultural entities created from the forced merger of smaller farms. or Soviet farms Soviet Farms.Soviet farms, or sovkhozi (from the Russian words for "Soviet farming") were usually formed from larger private farms that had been nationalized and were sometimes created by merging several "straggling" collective farms.

Specialization and concentration of Soviet farms began after 1970. In 1983, for example, there were already 28 inter-farm pork enterprises.
 were to be concentrated into one central agricultural settlement that was to approximate new industrialized cities in both form and content.
Rural urbanization brought tremendous change to the village landscape in Soviet Lithuania. Forced elimination of single-family homesteads, land reclamation, and the constant consolidation of rural communities meant that, by 1983, 64 percent of Lithuanian rural inhabitants lived within collective farm settlements.
New methods for planning, construction, and forestation were presented and promoted by special showcase collective farm settlements. The Dainava experimental settlement (architects: Ramūnas Kamaitis and Virginijus Šimkus, 1965–1969), built on the territory of the Leonpolis Soviet poultry farm near Ukmergė, in central Lithuania, became the model for a new type of village community, meant to display the future face of the Lithuanian village. The design sought to recreate conditions enjoyed by urban communities, thus individual farms were done away with and replaced by urban-like multi-story prefabricated housing and a central district, complete with a department store.
This functionalist experiment of "transplanting the city to the village" was praised and promoted by the government but it quickly became the target of criticism and was judged a failure. Even the award of the USSR State Prize to the Dainava settlement in 1971 failed to reinforce the use of this "city-like" rural development model, in which collective farmers were completely disconnected from their own individual farms. Nevertheless, in this period many Lithuanian collective farm communities saw the rise of standard 2-3 story residential panel buildings.
The 1970s marked a new stage in Lithuanian rural architecture under the slogan "starting to create a new Lithuanian village." This period was also primarily a time of growth in the agrarian economies of the three Baltic republics, which later permitted collective farmers to enjoy the fruits of a somewhat higher quality of life (including in architecture) than agricultural workers in the rest of the Soviet Union.
After plans were drawn up in 1973 for all of the new Lithuanian rural settlements, most of them based on standardized (monotonous) designs, debate turned to the need for distinctiveness. This discussion coincided with the revival of folkloric regionalism in architecture and motivated architects to take interest in the unique identities of Lithuania's ethnographic regions. Architects at the collective farm construction design institute began to apply various different approaches: highlighting the natural local terrain, avoiding right angle street intersections, and creating different types of designs for residential housing. This radically changed ideology is perfectly illustrated by the title of an article written by architect and urban planner Kazimieras Šešelgis: "Protect villages from urban structures!" Kazimieras Šešelgis, „Ginkime kaimą nuo miesto statinių!“, Statyba ir architektūra, 1984, Nr. 12, p. 4.
A plenary meeting of the Soviet Communist Party in 1978 was an important impetus for residential construction in socialist villages, drawing attention to the fact that better living conditions could help entice trained specialists in agriculture and other fields to live and work in rural communities. This allowed for a more liberal reading of residential area requirements and the introduction of more original approaches to single-family residential housing.
The result of this ideology was called the Alytaus namelis (the Alytus House), a design which illustrated a clear compromise between the successful return to rural settlements of the single-family home, constructed from local materials helping to retain regional traits, and continued adherence to the strict demands of industrialized construction and assembly, since the house was produced in a factory from standardized cardboard panels.
Six types of houses – each with different façades, floor plans (from 70 to 120 square meters), and different numbers of rooms (3–5) – began to be constructed in Alytus in 1976. A one-story house with an attic, built on a high foundation (equipped with a cellar), was a standout on the rural landscape with its coloring and different finishings (red and yellow brick, stone walls) and its steep gable roof covered in tile or colored slate. Inside, there was ample space for a kitchen and dining room, a pantry, and utility rooms. A new symbol of Lithuanian rural and small town prosperity in the late Soviet period, the Alytus House (shortened to Alytnamis in Lithuanian), though well designed, was continuously improved upon. It was not free from shortcomings, which were mostly the result of the inferior quality of construction materials (collective farmers used to call the Alytus Houses "cardboard homes").
The spread of regionalist architecture in rural Lithuania in the late Soviet period is also well illustrated by the model Juknaičiai Soviet farm settlement (architects: Alfonsas Kiškis, Rūta Kiškienė, Stanislovas Kalinka, Edmundas Vičius). Juknaičiai also benefited from the ambitious efforts of the Soviet farm chairman, Zigmantas Dokšas, to create a non-standard living environment.
The 1974 general plan for the Juknaičiai settlement called for the separation of residential and production zones, with homes grouped into small neighborhoods surrounded by green zones, rather than arrayed along a street. The structure of the settlement and accompanying park was conceived by the renowned landscape architect Alfonsas Kiškis and his wife Rūta. The construction of uniquely designed buildings (including residential structures) was initiated by the collective farm chairman, based on his experiences traveling abroad. Juknaičiai included non-standard one and a half and two and a half-story residential buildings, with apartments occupying two floors (designed by architect Vičius), eight-story residential buildings (architect: Kalinka), and fluidly designed public buildings made of red brick and covered in sloping tiled roofs.
One original structure was the so-called Spiritual and Physical Health Hall (!) (also by Kalinka, 1977) – a pool and sauna complex that in its architectural composition resembled a church with an adjoining monastery. New administrative posts were established early on in Juknaičiai for specialists overseeing the settlement, including Soviet farm architect (Vičius) and official artist (Gintaras Augaitis). Forestation and greenery issues were delegated to Benedikta Dokšienė, who occupied the new position of landscape agronomist, while renowned Lithuanian artists (sculptors Stanislovas Kuzma and Gediminas Karalius, stained glass craftsmen Konstantinas Šatūnas and Algirdas Dovydėnas, and others) were invited to design the beautification of buildings and the settlement's park. From a social perspective, Juknaičiai was the embodiment of the socialist-paternalist principle of caring for the people from "cradle to grave," since the settlement included a complete social welfare system for collective farmers, from daycare facilities to a retirement home and a cemetery. The architecture of the Juknaičiai settlement won the Lenin Prize in 1988.


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Sources and links

„Quartier de Girmounai, Vilnius, Lituanie“
L‘Architecture d‘Aujourd‘hui, 1969–1970, Nr. 147
„Ginkime kaimą nuo miesto statinių!“
Statyba ir architektūra, 1984, Nr. 12
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