We would like to express our gratitude to a large group of people and sponsors, who in one or another way contributed to implementation of the project and exhibition. For safekeeping the artefacts/ exhibits as presented in this exhibition, we feel sincerely tankful to Paulius Naruševičius, who has kindly agreed to lend us the remaining part of Miliūnas’ Archive and renewed the models of Kaunas Žalgiris Arena designs making them presentable for our exhibition. Without this person’s good-willed contribution, we wouldn’t be able to obtain even this small amount of the material. Architect, publisher and active architecture critic Audrys Karalius also has made his remarkable contribution while implementing the exhibition and entire project, acting as its co-curator and giving us a hand in collecting and systematising the material of the extant archive; besides, he has contributed a lot to the development of the exhibition concept. We would like to give our special thanks to Miliūnas Architects’ Studio and Ms Dalia Miliūnienė, whose involvement and benevolence have preconditioned the preservation of the part of Miliūnas’ archive, which now is presented for the audience. We express our gratitude to photographer Gintautas Trimakas, whose help and excellent photographic prints have allowed us to implement the visual design of the exhibition. Besides, our sincere thanks goes to the project sponsors – the Council for Culture of Lithuania, and private companies Materialus, UAB, Energy Green, UAB, and AEXN, UAB.
Concept of the Exhibition
Architect Eugenijus Miliūnas (Simas) is one of the outstanding architects and artists in the Lithuanian architecture of the second half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, as well as in the history of contemporary architecture in general. Although his role still needs to be disclosed in full, Miliūnas’ influence on professional field of architecture, as well as broader social context has been tremendous. The small scale of the exhibition fails to reflect in full the national significance of this personality; it has been determined by a few essential factors. On the one hand, the exhibition has not been planned solely as a retrospective project aimed at summarizing the completed professional phase or a life stage, but has rather become a sincere attempt to remind the audience about terminally ill architect-artist Simas by showing the little-known or even unknown part of his work at a different angle, even if the material is related to the well-known architectural objects. Therefore, the exhibition is based on the found artefacts and original material of the primary sources preserved by Mr Paulius Naruševičius, the fellow-artist and colleague of Eugenijus Miliūnas. On the other hand, the scale of the exhibition has been determined by the amount and quality of the material that has been found, because, as it has emerged while implementing the project, almost the entire archive of Miliūnas’ work has been irreversibly lost, including his sketches, models and other original materials. This fact has substantially complicated the formation of the exhibition content. Thus, in short, by this exhibition we aim to remind of Simas as a great architect and artist, and humbly admit that the exhibition spaces in Kaunas and Vilnius are really too small for him, but exactly this small amount of material that we can see in the exhibition reveals the real situation of what and how much of the original material by Simas is still available today… We hope that the National Institute of Architecture that still is in the process of formation in the former central post-office building in Kaunas will get interested in the material of this exhibition and other materials collected during this project, and ensure its safe-keeping in its archives for future generations.
The ideological concept of the exhibition has been coded in its very name “Idealism: the Ones” generated by architect Audrys Karalius. Although the idea has been interpreted differently by the exhibition co-curators, its foundational concept has remained the same. The concept of idealism can be interpreted quite differently in the project and exhibition:
- as a declining (or almost extinct) feature in contemporary architecture, which often determines an essential difference between worth and value in architectural practice (it seems, it is quite hard to distinguish these two qualities for contemporary architects, although they dispute actively on the quality issues of architecture), encourages architects’ aspirations for orientation towards the bigger general good (professional social engagement, architects’ responsibility to society for a long-term effect of their actions) and, at the same time, the attempts for closer connections between the field of architecture and other cultural environment (still badly lacking). These qualities are undoubtedly found in the works of Eugenijus Miliūnas (Simas), which, first of all, reveal his aspiration to express and embody values rather than worth, create architecture without restricting himself to solutions of tasks on the trade level, but rather architecture covering and solving urban, architectural and even social issues, seeking for maximum environmental integrity, regardless of the situation. Often such aspirations are implemented by providing a piece of architecture with different cultural codes and connotations, based not only on the image parallels with architectural works of the civilization significance, but also on foundational experiences of the collective conscience, indirectly perceived by society and applied by an architect in his/her architectural work in the primary – philosophical – stage of its creation. Almost every work by Simas shows the signs of its long-term architectural impact and responsibility for future generations, avoidance of fashionable bravado short-term beauty, but rather aims at a creative result based on fundamental space-formation laws and universal durable structure.
- Idea as a creative purpose or artistic principle, for which an architect is ready to go “an extra mile” while purifying and contemplating it, until he/ she reaches the highest level of the architectural work. Such omission of primitive boundaries and mental resources of the task for the sake of Architecture is exactly that kind of idealism, which we miss so often in contemporary architectural practice. It is the professional malaise that most often determines the multilayer and affective, as well as mostly high-quality result of the creative pains. Such idealism is present in almost all architectural works by Miliūnas and is experienced by a viewer in spaces of different scale while perceiving his architectural works. In the aspect of vistal (using Daniel R. Montello’s term) and environmental scale, idealism is manifested by strong emotional impact on a person experiencing his works from the outside – in the environment, where different vista of the building surprises anew, draws attention to different relations and environmental nuances, and affects a viewer visually and emotionally. In other words, the artistic expression of solid architectural idea turns into an architectural charisma, to which no viewer can remain indifferent. In the aspect of tactile and figurative spatial scale, the quality and artistic intensity of architectural details, as the author is not content with a typical, catalogue and multiply repeated solution, but rather seeks for unique architectural details characteristic for that particular work and that particular place, make an impression of exclusivity and highest possible artistic value for a person directly interacting with Simas’ architectural works.
Such ideal origin of architecture can be noticed in every architectural work of the exhibition. The materialisation of such ideal origin no longer depends on the architect, but rather on the circumstances and pragmatic reality, and, as shown by Miliūnas’ work, seeking and maintaining is the main duty of every architect-creator, regardless of whether his/ her work is realized, or remains in the stage of idea. The works of Eugenijus Miliūnas (Simas) reveal the fundamental value axis and orientation of architecture, and encourage to create rather than make architecture.
Content of the Exhibition
Three main themes – or thematic sections – may be distinguished in the exhibition.
The first one is the projection of materialised Miliūnas’ creative work and ideas based on the original artefacts. The exhibition presents artefacts, photo negatives, sketches, drawings and photomontages of different analyses, made through collective creative process and disclosing the richness and intensity of it. These are the working material of the architectural “kitchen”. The majority of the negatives and photographs as presented at the exhibition were made by Algimantas Kaunietis; the author of the exhibition prints is photographer Gintautas Trimakas; some of the photographs were made by Laimutis Brundza.
The second thematic section of the exhibition may be referred to as the ideas and realisations in the places of special importance for Lithuanian culture. It is an attempt to show Eugenijus Miliūnas’ creative work in crucial urban spaces with the aim to reveal the application of universal (classical) principles of architectural ideality, which, without doubt, are present in his work. The ideas of the competition design for the National Art Gallery in Vilnius, Cathedral Square, and architectural objects of Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas are shown in the exhibition. In both works, the application of classical fundamental architectural principles is obvious, although in different way. The informal plan and space-volume composition of the Ancient Agora of Athens can be noticed in the space formation of the National Art Gallery, solving at the same time the tasks of boundary setting for the Cathedral Square. In the case of Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas, the same – universal – form and function organization principles are quite recognizable in the formation of the object’s space-volume composition and scale, as were applied in the Colosseum of Rome and other similar objects, but they have been interpreted in especially modern and contemporary way. Besides, the integration of the object into the urban and natural contexts is well-done and in compliance with the classical principles of urban development.
One more group of exhibits strengthening this thematic section is the architectural works of Žilinskas Art Gallery and the Dome of Šilainiai Church, in which one can easily discern the parallels of Acropolis spatial structure and Dome of the Florence Cathedral. These architectural pieces represent an obvious ideological linkup with foundational architectural objects of European civilization.
Finally, the third thematic section of the exhibition can be named grand ideas and losses. To disclose this subject, the exhibition presents the material of the 1983 competition design of La Defence in Paris, by juxtaposing it to the design material of the shopping mall Kalniečiai in Kaunas. Both designs are utopian by their essence. Maybe, this is the reason why the first has remained as a beautiful idea and the other currently is undergoing a rough deconstruction due to the society’s inability (or rather – incapability) to adapt the work to the social-economic needs of the present time. The classical idea of axial composition development is recognizable in both works, although realised at a different scale. Such juxtaposition has been applied in the exhibition not accidentally, but rather prompts a viewer to a conscious reflection of the following: the grand ideas developed by the Master were not restricted by cultural and physical geography, but have remained relevant even in different contexts; the mater and works are temporary, and their importance and value depend on the culture and professionalism of society; and idealism in its versatile forms has been gradually waning from the collective conscious of our Lithuanian world of architecture. Here, we must admit that the destruction of high quality architecture has become a daily norm as architectural mankurts of our time have lost the ability to distinguish value from worth, defying the concepts of architectural conscience and architectural “hearing”, which are being rejected as “idealistic”, as well as putting to death cultured and deeply emotionally experienced architecture for money. Unfortunately, instead of such true architecture, they can offer only a provincial commercial sanctuary, non-integral environment, ideological and cultural chaos of the place, or literally nothing, that could at least by an eyelash compare by quality to the condemned piece of architecture.
This project reminds a bit of social ethnography, when the entire puzzle is made from trifles and artefacts or even their fragments scattered around and then the separate elements can be related into a single narrative. The project has been and still is difficult, never-ending and develops, it seems, expanding itself. Probably, it shouldn’t surprise, when you are trying to understand such personality as that of Eugenijus Miliūnas. By implementing this project, we have just broken the ice with the entire river flowing underneath.
Miliūnas is a magnificent figure in the field of Lithuanian architecture, who has sown a grain of art and thought of architecture in the many of us. This exhibition is our attempt to express our deepest respect to this Master, Architect and Teacher, by remembering him and his work.
To my fellow architects: we all have a limited amount of time here and our works sometimes seem insignificant to us, even if made with great sincerity. But my advice – before throwing away your sketch, design or model, first think – maybe although it seems like a piece of worthless trash to you, it may seem valuable to someone and he/ she will be able to learn from it or even implement the idea. Therefore, never “throw your pearls before swine”, but rather keep your archives and give them over to the National Institute of Architecture, when you are able to do it. We are responsible for our heritage to ourselves and culture of our country. I humbly ask you never forget it.
Exhibition and Project Curator, Architect Dr. Tomas Grunskis
Exhibition open till 30th of January 2023.
Project was presented and supported by :