Public Buildings in Interwar Vilnius: The Diversity of Institutions, Functions and Architecture

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis




architecture of Vilnius, modernism, Warsaw school of modernism, public architecture


After the re-establishment of independence in 1918 in Poland the process of forming new administrative structures, eliminating the effects of the WWI and modernising the State’s cultural and economic life began, and was followed by the intense construction of building. Vilnius was annexed and acquired the voivodship centre status. In 1919-1939, in many other Polish cities, new institutions of local government, banking, science and education, health, social insurance, communication, transport and culture were established. The variety of functional needs led to the wide variety of architectural forms of that period and the appearance of heterogeneous architecture. Institutional decisions aimed to prudently preserve the Old Town of Vilnius, to revitalise its monuments, and the new buildings of modernised traditionalism and pure modernism just outside the old city (especially in the New Town) counterbalanced the Tsarist architectural image of the city and formed new guidelines for urban development and architectural landscape in many urban areas. Previous buildings were often adapted and used for the new administrative purposes (e. g. a new wing was added to the 19th century courthouse on Gediminas avenue in 1929 etc.). The emergence of new buildings (especially after 1935, when the state economy started to recover after the crisis and a wave of construction flooded into Vilnius) testified to the efficiency and modernity of the powers and institutions of the Second Polish Republic in the Vilnius region (e.g. Postal Savings Bank, Polish Land Bank, Public Insurance Company etc.). Many new public architecture projects were not implemented and remained only as drawings (e. g. Trade school building complex, palaces of the State Forest Directorate and Labor market, Secondary school at Subačius st., etc). During the Interwar period, the architecture of Vilnius developed gradually, and its dynamism and abundance did not match capitals of the great voivodeships of Poland (Warsaw, Poznan, Krakow, Legnica, Włocławek, Gdynia). However, the harmony of the buildings with their surroundings / context, volumes and spaces, specific architectural solutions, elements and finishing materials determines the unique character of modernist architecture, which only appeared in Interwar Vilnius.

Author Biography

Rasa Butvilaitė, Vilnius Academy of Arts, Vilnius, Lithuania

Rasa Butvilaitė is an art historian and art critic. She is a senior researcher at the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, and is an associate professor in the Department of Art History and Criticism at Vilnius Academy of Arts, since 2020 she is a chief of the Department. Her research areas are the history and theory of Lithuanian architecture, and manor estate culture and heritage.



How to Cite

Butvilaitė, R. (2020). Public Buildings in Interwar Vilnius: The Diversity of Institutions, Functions and Architecture: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (98), 180–211.