17 utopias of Vilnius, which were planned but never came into being
Vilnius has been created for seven centuries now, and during all this time there have been many projects in the city that were planned, dreamed of, but they were never implemented for one reason or another. On the occasion of the 698th birthday of the capital, the podcast of the City of Vilnius “Vilnius is Speaking” collected 17 such plans and projects, which can now be called utopias. Of course, some of them could still be implemented in the future.
Construction of the Church of the Heart of Jesus designed by A. Vivulskis had already begun in Vytenio Street in the interwar period, but during the Soviet era, its walls were used for the Builders’ Palace. It should be noted that the restoration of the church has not yet been deleted from the plans for Vilnius.
In 1840, the architect F. K. Šinkelis proposed a restoration project for the Verkiai Palace. Had it been implemented, this palace would now look as if brought from Austria.
In 1931, Janusz Tłomakowski offered a rather utopian vision for Vilnius – the city of the shape of a perfect circle.
The Town Hall building in Vilnius could have looked differently, if at least one of the several projects offered for its reconstruction had been implemented or if the original idea of Laurynas Stuoka Gucevičius came into being.
During the interwar period, a place was searched for a monument to Adam Mickiewicz, and finally a decision was made to build it in the middle of Gediminas Avenue, next to the current V. Kudirka Square. But the project was never implemented.
The current intersection of Kalvarijų Street and Konstitucijos Avenue could have been much bigger today, arranged as a roundabout, with Kalvarijų Street being similar to a highway. Fortunately, this idea has not reached hands of the designers.
Vilnius Old Town could have been cut by a wide highway – there were various plans for where it should have been, but finally the idea was not implemented. The construction of S. Neris school directly on the planned highway may have contributed to the failed implementation.
The current bus station is only a part of the original project proposed by architect Vytautas Brėdikis. A huge office building was supposed to be built above the bus station, but this idea was rejected, which angered the architect of the project.
The current Lukiškės Square was widely discussed during the Soviet years, and a number of competitions were held deciding the fate of the square. If at least some of them were implemented, Lukiškės Square would now look like a real Soviet monster and resemble Minsk or Kiev.
The Tauras Hill could have been “decorated” with a disproportionately large Soviet palace – fortunately, a more modest project was implemented, which will also soon disappear.
Building a huge Government Palace next to Lukiškės Square was planned during the Soviet era – the winner of the competition reminiscent of the Government Palace in Moscow or Minsk was selected. But this idea remained an idea only.
The vision of the architect Algimantas Nasvytis on the right bank of the Neris became a reality in the years of independent Lithuania, leaving out a small detail of the project only – there should have been a Neris bay with water cascades instead of the meadow next to the White Bridge.
The left bank of the Neris river could have looked different than it does now if according to one of the offered visions buildings were not built along Goštauto Street, moving them away from the street instead and leaving a green area between the street and the buildings.
Šnipiškės, one of the weirdest and most unique neighbourhoods of Vilnius, could have looked like an ordinary Soviet residential neighbourhood, if the plans to demolish the old wooden houses and to build block multi-storey buildings were not implemented.
The part of the city planned where Pilaitė neighbourhood is now located could have been much larger, however the plans to expand the neighbourhood several times developed during the Soviet era were eventually stopped in years of independence of the country, implementing the idea of the southern side of Pilaitė only.
A sad fate awaited the current Žvėrynas neighbourhood. The plan was to build the Ukmergės Street highway on the Kęstučio Street passing the neighbourhood, connecting it to the current Geležinio Vilko Street via a new bridge, and the tunnel planned under the current M. K. Čiurlionio Street would have led Geležinio Vilko Street to Naujamiestis. These two highways would have significantly distorted the face of Žvėrynas and Naujamiestis.
Vilnius subway is still a utopia of the city. Its idea has been alive for 50 years now, however, as the Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius says, a subway in Vilnius has all the chances, but it has to appear at the right time, when public transport passenger traffic is sufficiently intense.
The Mayor of Vilnius R. Šimašius and the Chief Architect of the city discuss why these projects were not implemented or how they would have changed the current face of the city in the podcast “Vilnius is Speaking” broadcasted on: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoPuiM66u84
Vilnius celebrates its birthday on the 25th of January – 698 years ago, Vilnius was first mentioned in Gediminas’ letters.
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