Just Mapping? Case of Lazdynai

JUST 2 was an intensive exploration of the relations between two particular sites, that of the Soviet era Tauro Ragas beer bar in relation to the “European Capital of Culture” era Kultflux, to explore the socio-spatial relations in which they emerged and through which they had fallen into decline as a way for trying to work through alternative possibilities.

The JUST (Jamming Underused Socialist Treasures) project, however, is an ongoing undertaking that attempts to build theory and practice able to respond to the specific challenges of urbanism in our region. Thus, it seemed necessary to take a step back from particular locations to address bigger spatial areas, since the most pressing challenge of the heritage of socialist modernism in the cities of Eastern Europe is the widespread scale of this legacy. What we are interested in this year is beginning to think about questions arising from how this socialist modernist infrastructure is reprogrammed under the paradigms of post-socialist urbanization. These questions are not punctual – they are city-wide (albeit varying between cities, and between districts within cities) – and this heritage is generally not perceived as a treasure. Indeed, one might even argue that it is not a question of heritage since, despite the sense that such urban landscapes are timeless, much of this infrastructure has a limited lifespan – one that in many cases is close to or (as for example in the case of Šeškinė) has even already reached the end of that lifespan.

Thus, in collaboration with a course on the “Production of Space in the Digital Age”, we plan to focus JUST 3 on the district of Lazdynai. Completed in the early 70s, Lazdynai provides an interesting case, as it is both an example of and an exception to the concept of socialist modernist housing districts. In a certain sense, it is an exemplary socialist treasure, winning the Lenin prize for architecture in 1974, but on the other hand its value is often seen in its resistance to Soviet-style repetitiveness in favor of an openness to Baltic influences (especially Finnish architecture) and a sensitivity to the district’s topography, in particular its hills. This once prized district has, however, followed the typical path of socialist housing districts of falling living standards and now finding itself outside the dynamic concentrations of development of the city’s tourist and business centers.

Our aim in JUST 3 is to build on the work started by local initiatives Archfondas and Vietos in re-envisioning this district to explore how new tactics of mapping might make it possible to explore the district more deeply than its dominant stereotypes and to map the socio-spatial relations in which this district is interwoven differently.