Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) has launched an open international contest to design a £26.4 million concert hall in Kaunas, Lithuania
The anonymous single-stage competition – backed by Kaunas City Municipality – will select a conceptual design for the new 11,750m² landmark complex within Lithuania’s second-largest city, which was recently named European Capital of Culture 2022.
The MK Čiurlionis Concert Centre, named after Lithuanian painter, composer and writer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, will occupy a landmark site overlooking the city’s historic old and new towns. A waterfront park and multifunctional spaces for public and community events will also be included alongside the 1,500-capacity concert hall.
Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis said: ‘The city of Kaunas is delighted to be launching this design contest, and we invite architects from across the world to participate. Our new concert centre will be a beacon for music, culture and the arts; a symbol of Kaunas’ confidence and ambition; and an integral part of our city’s commercial and creative renaissance.
‘The people of Kaunas chose to name our new concert centre after the Lithuanian painter and composer MK Čiurlionis, a gifted polymath: this will be a space for different disciplines – art, music, business and academia – to meet and interact, in a genuine “theatre of ideas”.’
MRC chair and jury chair Malcolm Reading said: ‘This project has a number of compelling ingredients: a vibrant, developing city; a receptive and forward-thinking client; a population that values culture, design and the arts; and an ambitious brief that calls for the very best.
‘Designers should pay great attention to using culture and the arts to foster a sense of shared experience, as well as integrating different parts of the city, reviving adjacent neighbourhoods, and attracting citizens and visitors closer to the river.’
Kaunas is home to many academic institutions and emerging businesses. The settlement was recently named a UNESCO global creative city and will become European Capital of Culture in 2022. The competition announcement comes eight months after SimpsonHaugh and Partners was named one of three finalists in an earlier MRC competition for a £21 million national science and innovation centre on nearby Nemunas Island.
The concert hall site is on the south bank of the River Nemunas, overlooking the city’s Old Town, featuring many Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, and its New Town, which hosts several Modernist icons from the country’s brief interwar period of independence.
As well as the main concert hall, the scheme will feature a secondary hall, conferencing facilities and a restaurant, café and bar. Offices, back-of-house facilities and a underground car park will also be delivered along with a new waterfront public park. The scheme is planned to complete in 2022.
Judges will include Kaunas City Council member and Vilnius Academy of Arts, Kaunas faculty dean Jonas Audėjaitis; Ingela Larsson, partner at Henning Larsen Architects; Kaunas vice mayor Povilas Mačiulis; and DRDH Architects co-director Daniel Rosbottom.
Three winning teams, due to be announced in the autumn, will receive around £22,000 each and be invited into a negotiated procedure with the client to select an overall recipient of the design commission.
The deadline for applications is 6 September.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Malcolm Reading Consultants
29 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7831 2998
Q&A: Malcolm Reading, MRC chair and jury chair
Why is Kaunas holding a single-stage international contest for a waterfront concert hall?
This is a wonderful site in a beautiful city. Creating a landmark public building in this location will energise the area and bring new prosperity. Kaunas is an incredibly go-ahead city that is purposefully building a modern cultural infrastructure to position itself as the arts capital of the Baltics. The new concert centre will deliver this, as well as providing first-class facilities for Kaunas’ citizens. An international competition is one of the best ways to seek out architectural talent to match this ambition.
What is the vision for the new venue on this prominent site?
It’s a major project with a complex brief. The city carried out a detailed feasibility study before embarking on the competition, which we were able to absorb into the brief. So, competitors have a very thorough set of coordinated requirements to consider. The site conditions are tricky because of the proximity to a busy road as well as the river frontage, but this also offers a lot of opportunity for social and interactive public space. In fact, the social programme for the building is incredibly important and we are hoping to see this reflected in concept designs.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The competition is open. There are some requirements imposed by Lithuanian procurement regulations in terms of relevant experience but we have tried to make the competition as open as possible. It’s a very appealing project for an emerging team – a chance to show innovation and imagination in a public building – but equally may appeal to a more established studio that wants to demonstrate maturity and identity. The client and jury are very open to the opportunity and have no preconceptions.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
As anyone who has followed MRC’s recent competitions will know, this is our second major cultural project for the city. Kaunas recently won the European Capital of Culture 2022 and this is a great endorsement of their leadership and ambition in Lithuania and the wider Baltics. It’s a city going places. I am sure there will be emerging opportunities in public realm and place-making as 2022 approaches – especially as the city explores the potential to regenerate the areas of obsolete semi-industrial riverbank that bifurcate the city.
Are there any other concert hall projects you have been impressed by?
This isn’t just a concert hall – the brief envisages a more nuanced and animated set of spaces. The social and artistic energy of the renewed Festival Hall in London springs to mind, so too does the urban dynamism of the CaixaForum Madrid and the functional clarity of Aalto’s Finlandia Hall. But don’t take these as literal prompts – we are seeking something genuinely fresh and rooted in the site, designed to respect the environment as well as being true to the cultural ambition. So a tough challenge perhaps, but I am confident we will have a fantastic set of submissions.
Competition site taken from above Aleksotas looking towards Old and New Towns
Source: Image by Kaunas City Municipality