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House of Businessman Jonas Lapėnas

Kaunas, Lithuania
1 of 14

Although Vizbaras should be presented not as an architect but as an engineer (in 1908, he graduated as a civil engineer from the Riga Polytechnic Institute and then studied engineering for a year in Lviv), he was not lacking in creativity and talent. He left a very distinct mark on Lithuanian architecture in the interwar period. Vizbaras was distinguished by his unique ability to combine elements of historical architectonics, national ornamentation and modern stylistics. The six-storey tenement house designed for the Lapėnas brothers illustrates his architectural talent.

The ground floor of the apartment building, which was built in the central part of the city, was intended for shops. The other two floors were used for two luxury apartments each. In 1933, the courtyard was additionally equipped with 'warehouses, garages and rooms for chauffeurs'. From the summer of 1938 until September 1939, the 9-room apartment (the capital wall separating the two apartments was demolished in order to adapt the premises) with a kitchen was rented by the Polish Embassy. The sixth floor was used for the general needs of the inhabitants: a hall with a fireplace and a caretaker's flat in the attic. In the early Soviet period, the building was used as a dormitory for the Academy of Agriculture and later as a research institute. After the restoration of independence, the building housed various commercial establishments.

The internal structure of the building is organised symmetrically around a central double staircase volume. The utility and main staircases are separated from each other by a decorative glass wall. The functional organisation of the house is based on a corridor system. The representative side of the house finished with dark granite plaster, faces Kęstucio Street. The representative rooms of the apartments are also oriented towards this street. The kitchens with refrigerated cupboards, maids' rooms and bedrooms were on the courtyard side.

The volumetric-spatial organisation of the building is symmetrical, with projecting buttresses on the sides. The upper part of the building is crowned by a cornice, a parapet and an attic hiding the pitched roof. The building is given a distinctive modern spirit by a play of horizontal lines, which is obtained by combining the pattern of the metal balcony railings and the lines framing the continuous faux band of windows on the façade. The door for the passageway toward the backyard and the main door also emphasises the modern design of the building. Even though the street façade of the building is more representative with the rectangular pediment, the backyard façade with the expressive staircase is also remarkable.

The building can undoubtedly be seen as a significant architectural landmark, forming the genius loci of Kaunas.

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