Vilnius Congress Centre will be erected after the reconstruction and rearrangement of Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports in Vilnius, Rinktinės str. 1, and after it will be adapted for congresses, conferences and cultural events.
Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports is a cultural heritage monument. For this reason, during the reconstruction, the valuable properties of the building will be preserved, the elements of the facade will be renewed, by preserving their materiality. Reconstruction of the unique cable-stayed roof construction is also planned, as well as changing the doors, installation of frameless glass windows, and substantial renewal of the engineering systems of the building. The territory of the building will be also managed and the Old Jewish Cemetery and the cultural heritage of Jews will be commemorated.
This part of Vilnius was formerly called a Fishermen district, and the Old Jewish Cemetery was situated here. In the first half of the 19th century, part of the defensive fortress of Vilnius was built by the Tsarist Russia authorities in this place. It was demolished nit long before the turn of the centuries as an object that has lost its significance. During the interwar period, this territory was declared a museum value by the Polish administration which ruled Vilnius region. After the Word War II, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, a sports complex was erected here, and the Old Jewish Cemetery was destroyed in this way.
The sports complex had to consist of several parts: a football stadium with grandstands was built in 1948-1949, later – outdoor and indoor pools, and in 1965, construction of the central object of the complex – the Hockey Palace – was started. The later was later renamed to Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports.
The project of the palace was led by an architect Eduardas Chlomauskas, but the team of building authors consisted of architects Jonas Kriukelis, Zigmantas Liandzbergis, engineers Henrikas Karvelis, Algimantas Katilius, Aleksejus Kamarauskas, Sofija Kovarskaja. The building was finished in 1971, and is considered one of particularly prominent examples of brutalist architectural style – it stands out for its unique wave-shaped roof. Basketball competitions as well as concerts, performances and other events took place here.
When Lithuania was regaining its independence, the palace went down in history as a place where the Constituent Congress of the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis took place in 1988, and on 14-16 January 1991, in this place, Lithuanian society farewelled the Lithuanian freedom fighters who died on 13 January.
For some time, the Palace of Concerts and Sports continued to serve as a venue of various events, until the building and its territory were privatized in 2004 by Ūkio Bankas Investment Group (ŪBIG).
For its architectural features, in 2006, the building was included in the Register of Cultural Property of Lithuania as an object of regional significance. After another two years, the Old Jewish Cemetery in the territory of the building was also included in the Register of Cultural Property. In 2009, the Government of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) established the boundaries of the old cemetery and agreed to cooperate in managing and commemorating the cemetery.
From 2009, the building of Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports was recognized as a building with serious structural defects, and its operation was terminated. Given the importance of the building and the territory, the Government of Lithuania made a decision to redeem the building and the territory. This task was delegated to SE Turto bankas. In 2015, SE Turto bankas acquired to the ownership of the state a complex of Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports for 5.6 million euros, and currently manages it under the trust right.
By its resolution, the Government stated that the building of the palace has to be reconstructed to Vilnius Congress Centre, to be used a venue of congresses, conferences and cultural events.
According to the project, it will be the largest centre in the Baltic States that provides this type of services and meets international standards. It will increase competitiveness and awareness of Lithuania, will promote and develop conference tourism, and will contribute to attracting investment.
Vilnius Congress Centre, which could be visited by up to 4,800 visitors simultaneously, is estimated to be opened to the public in 2023.
As part of the implementation of the agreement of 2009, the territory of the building will be also managed, and the Old Jewish Cemetery and Jewish cultural heritage will be properly commemorated.
Photo: ©Bahadir Aksan