The architecture of the cities of Lithuania is like a mirror which contains a reflection of our history.
The brick and walled castles of the Middle Ages comprise the oldest surviving monuments of Lithuanian architecture, attesting to the austere periods of the founding of the state. From the 14th century onwards, architecture began to be shaped by European traditions. All the styles of Europe, one after the other, reached the country, sometimes belatedly.
In the 14th century, there was the early Gothic style, exemplified by the castle of the rulers in Trakai.
In the 15th century, the late Gothic style marked the Church of St. Anne in Vilnius. (This was the church Napoleon admired so much that he wanted to see it relocated in Paris).
During the Renaissance Period of the 16th century, cities began to be constructed according to a formal plan and structure. The Rulers' Palace of the Lower Castle in Vilnius (presently under reconstruction) dates from this period.
The Baroque style took hold in Lithuania in the 17th century, and produced a vast number of masterpieces. The Baroko Kelias (Baroque Way), established throughout Lithuania in 1996 under the auspices of the Council of Europe, touched only a part of the treasure trove. Vilnius is sometimes alluded to as the Baroque capital of the entire region.
Throughout the ages, foreigners were the designers of the majority of the masterpieces; most frequently they were Italian master craftsmen. Only in the 18th century, when the Baroque style was already in full bloom, did the expertise of the local craftsmen catch up with that of the foreigners, and by the end of the century, when the classic style reached the country, there already existed in Lithuania a strong independent school of architecture. The most famous among its representatives was Laurynas Gucevicius, who designed Vilnius Cathedral and the City Hall, which still adorn the capital.
Throughout the entire 19th century, the administration of Imperial Russia continued its destruction of the outstanding palaces and residences and even demolished churches and monasteries. The renaissance Palace of Rulers of the Lower Castle complex was flattened to the ground. During that century, an occasional building of classic mannerism (the palace of the Governor General of the Tsar) appeared in Lithuania. Kaunas was transformed into a fortress ringed by forts. At the end of the century, as in all of Europe, the architecture of capitalist secession (Jugendstil), and modernism began to take shape.
During the first half of the 20th century, a tradition of national architecture, which was to a great extent influenced by the German Bauhaus school, came to the fore. The provisional capital, Kaunas, became the city in which the architecture of the inter-war period was most evident.
During the years of Soviet rule, Lithuania's cities began to be shaped according to plans prepared and approved in Moscow. Some buildings of pompous Stalinist architecture appeared, new residential sections were erected, ringing cities with massive edifices of reinforced concrete. Only during the final Soviet decades did a new generation of Lithuanian architects reach maturity, and original Lithuanian architecture, which sometimes aMazed not only Soviet architects, but also experts from the West, began to make its mark. Vytautas Cekanauskas, Vytautas Bredikis, Algimantas and Vytautas Nasvytis have become well-known architects.
Present-day Lithuania continues to be closely connected with its countryside, and this is reflected in its architecture, as well. Elements of folk creativity have become particularly visible recently, with the resumption of church construction.
Modern Lithuanian architecture has been considerably influenced by the Frenchman Le Corbusier and also by Finnish architecture.
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