Clients: International Union of Architects, Lithuanian Union of Architects, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania
Status: Competition (2019)
Location: Vilnius, Lithuania
Coordinates: 54.685350, 25.268866
Climate: Continental, Temperate
Materials: Glass, Metal
Scale: 11.241 ㎡ Large
Types: Cultural, Theater
Vilnius has a love relationship with public spaces. They come in all shapes and sizes and they always seem to be waiting around the corner to surprise you. Squares, streets, parks, cut off street corners, front yards, back yards and the riverside of Neris binding them all together in a colourful constellation. Despite their differences and extraordinary variety, they seem to share a characteristic: they all have an atmosphere of informality. Everything seems inhabited, casual, lived in. Tauras Hill is no exception. People are sitting on the steeper slopes, playing on the small plateaus, walking their dogs or watching the sunset.
The new concert hall is bringing a more concrete and formal function in direct contact with this public space. The key point of the design is to create a smooth and effortless transition between the two. The park and the building should coexist harmoniously and ideally enhance each other and thrive in each other’s company. The building is designed as a physical and functional continuation of the hill, an artificial landscape cascading upwards in a series of slopes and viewing platforms, a gradient between the park and the venue.
The site design is closely following the existing landscape of the hill and the existing landscape design proposal. The main importance has been put to the natural shape of the hill with its slopes and plateaus in-between. The largest plateau at the foot of the new concert hall building has been mainly left clear of large interventions to preserve the view to the building from the bottom of the stairs. The building roofscape cascades down towards the plateau with steps and benches following the existing slope and fading away into greenery. The large seating slope is placed as an extension to the existing slope that is currently often used for seating.
Another reason for seeing the design as an artificial landscape rather than a building is the way it is perceivable. The main vantage points are either from the hill itself or from far away, from the numerous lookout points of the city. On the one hand it isn’t closely juxtaposed with the buildings surrounding it, but on the other it has a very large impact on the image of the park and the overall silhouette of the city. In this way the decision to design a landscape implies a specific understanding of what the contexts is. The importance of the building’s placement in the skyline of Vilnius dictated a design that uses architectural means but has to do with the city as a whole. One of the main goals of the design was therefore to be iconic without being monumental. From far the building should appear soft and immaterial, yet standing out in its context. These two motivations where the ones that dictated the form and character of the building’s architecture. Somewhere between nature and architecture, a piece of urban nature, an object in the park, a large folly.
The architectural solution is defined by two elements: First, an unfolding roof that starts out as a part of the hill and then interacts with all building levels, becoming a ceiling, a floor, a terrace or a balcony. Second, a forest of columns, acting at once as façade, structure and organizing elements. They are used both inside and outside the building and both under and on top of the roof. Not only do they make the figure of the building hazy and abstract form far, but they blur all other kinds of borders in the experience of both building and park. There is no hierarchy of inside or outside, both the main spaces of the new National Hall and the roof promenade above are perceived as landscapes. The columns are also bending in from the façade outline to create the two main entrances of the building, one towards each of the existing public paths of the park. This architecture of various levels of openness and permeability carries on in the interior spaces, where the artificial forest defines spaces with different characters (open, private, intimate).
The concert halls lie at the centre of this system, both functionally and in terms of choreography and experience. The small hall is a black box, but yet it connects to the landscape of the hill and the building through a large deep-set window, which can be closed off according to the needs of the space. When closed, the hall is an entirely introverted space but has the potential to transform into a closed amphitheatre, which continues to celebrate the building’s connection with the hill. The big hall takes the theme of borderlessness and natural feeling a step further, containing a world of its own. There, the columns are surrounding the audience in an intimate and protecting way and beyond them rough black walls set at a distance form the ring of columns make the limits of the space unperceivable from within.
The design of the hall is meant to evoke a feeling of infinity and inwardness. Through the proposed architectural and acoustic design, the visual effect of infinity creating perceptual uncertainty regarding the physical borders of the listening environment, and the vivid acoustical presence of the room resulting to a strong listener envelopment, will be combined to create a unique and unprecedented experience of immersion into an invisible but ubiquitous soundscape. The distinctiveness of the experience along with the excellent acoustics of the hall are intendent to provide a strong incentive for listeners and musicians all over the globe to visit the Vilnius Concert Hall.