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Starting the Year of Culture by Celebrating Modernism

26 January, 2022, Kaunas Full of Culture | Kaunas 2022, News, Topic of the month

Writing about music is no easier than dancing about architecture. The ownership of this lively phrase belongs to several people. Such statements, of course, are not an issue for the creative. Dances about architecture, by the way, are actually planned for June. Optimismo Festival is one of the events of Kaunas 2022 program Modernism for the Future initiated by its partners.

Cover art by Aistė Ambrazevičiūtė / part of the Optimismo music festival research project

From songs to cakes, from LEGO to socks – anything can be about architecture and out of love for it, we are already convinced. But in this editorial, we would like to take a few steps back. While presenting the issue dedicated to one of the Kaunas 2022 programs and to the ever-expanding modernist movement, let’s talk about this one house. The house with a round window.

“When you wake up in a new city,” we greeted the readers with this title exactly six years ago in the January of 2016, more than a year before Kaunas officially won the title of the European Capital of Culture. The house with a round window, the house of Iljinienė, then stood all grey and unhappy, like a passerby splashed by a trolleybus on K. Donelaičio Street. We then only imagined what would the living room of this auctioned house standing in the center of the city that was already branded with the European Heritage Label and included in the UNESCO network of design cities would look like. We just imagined.

At the end of 2017, our dream was fulfilled! Together with Marija Drėmaitė, who later announced the internationally famous exhibition Architecture of Optimism: The Kaunas Phenomenon, 1918–1940 in in our magazine, we broke into the already purchased but not yet renovated house of Iljinienė and, of course – some for the press, others for their personal archives – captured ourselves next to THAT window. 

The O-shaped window soon became synonymous with optimism, and the latter word was constantly mentioned in talks about Kaunas and not only in the context of the interwar period. If we are not mistaken, we should be grateful to the master of words Žygimantas Kudirka.

The settlers of Iljinienė’s house, encouraged by the architect Rūta Palytė-Biliūnienė, were not afraid of the heritage status and the advantages as well as obligations that it entails. In the summer of 2019, it was already possible to organize photo shoots and participate in tours while gasping from the symphony of the sliding doors and the majestic Middle Eastern eclecticism. Before holidays, a Christmas tree, welcoming trolleybus passengers and passersby, was decorated there.

Today Iljinienė’s house is “inhabited” by creators: interior design studio Blank Page. The studio that looks at a blank page with inspiration. It also promised to open the doors of the house, and maybe even the round window, for all those who have good ideas and are in need of this specific – optimistic – environment. 

And this is a story of only one house in Kaunas. The success story of modernists. You will find out more about them in this issue – click here for the articles in English.