Daniel Libeskind to design art centre for Lithuania

Nick Myall
Tuesday 01 Dec 2015

Daniel Libeskind has unveiled a design for the new green-roofed Lithuanian Modern Art Center in Vilnius

Renowned architect Daniel Libeskind has published the design of Lithuania’s modern art center (MAC) in Vilnius. Surrounded by a new public plaza located steps away from the medieval town, the 3,100 sq m museum has been conceived as an expression of the city, both past and present.

The project was announced by Viktoras Butkus and Danguole Butkiene, co-founders of the non-profit Modern Art Center (MAC) Vilnius, along with city Mayor Remigijus Simasius. 

The museum will be dedicated to the exploration of works created from 1960 to the present day by Lithuanian artists. The Butkus’ collection contains more than 4,000 works including paintings.

“We wanted to create a museum for the people of Lithuania, and also give this collection a home and an international audience. This collection is about the cultural legacy of the country,” said founder Viktoras Butkus. “Libeskind’s work is expressive, innovative, and, most importantly, has the power to tell the story of the past while connecting to the future of the city,” added Butkus. The building of the Modern Art Center is conceived as a cultural “gateway” connecting the 18th century grid to the medieval walled city. 

The concept is inspired by the historic gates of the city and references the local architecture both in form and materials. Two volumetric forms intertwine to create a structure that flows between inside and outside. The rectilinear exterior façade is clad in luminous, crisp white concrete that references the local materials of the city. The interior courtyard cuts through the entire form and features a dramatic staircase that leads to a public planted-roof and sculpture garden that connect directly to the piazza at street-level.

The extraction of the geometric volume at the core of the structure allowed the architects to open-up the entire building, creating floor-to-ceiling glazing that will flood the interior galleries with natural light. The southern facing exposures will be regulated by a five-meter cantilever that will provide natural shade during the warmest summer months. As visitors approach from the north, they enter though a three-story (10 metre tall) glazed entrance into a double-height, sunlight filled lobby. The galleries are connected by means of an open floor plan that will include 1,000 sq m of exhibition space dedicated to both permanent and temporary exhibitions. “The Modern Art Center not only creates a home for this extraordinary collection, but the design connects the galleries to the street and the urban fabric—giving the citizens of Vilnius a new cultural center infused with public space,” said architect Daniel Libeskind. 

The museum will include a café, bookstore, educational areas, auditorium, as well as storage and administrative space. The Modern Art Center is a non-profit institution founded by philanthropists Viktoras Butkusand Danguole Butkienein 2009. It seeks to accumulate a representative collection of Lithuanian visual art from 1960 onwards and to make it accessible to the broadest possible audience. The MAC has assembled a significant collection of artworks from the Soviet period that at the time, were ideologically unacceptable and therefore ignored by major Lithuanian art museums following official state policies on art. Following the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990, public funds for acquiring contemporary art have been extremely limited. The Butkus’ saw the urgent need to create a collection and today the MAC is one of the leading institutions collecting contemporary Lithuanian art. Currently, the MAC collection represents 226 artists including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photography, and video works. Construction is set to begin in 2017 and completion slated for early 2019.

Nick Myall

News Editor

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