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Kaunas Sports Hall

Kaunas, Lithuania
Perkūno al. 5 - FOMA Large.jpeg
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By Monika Pociūtė, 2023.

In 1937, Lithuania won the European Basketball Championship in Riga, where it was also announced that the European Basketball Championship would be held in Kaunas in two years. This created a problem for the forthcoming championship organisers: there was no available venue.

The construction of the Kaunas sports hall started in 1939 and finished in half a year. The designer behind this project was the famous engineer Anatolijus Rozenbliumas (1902-1973). However, in his youth, he went to study piano at the Berlin Conservatory after leaving school. However, in 1922 he opted for technical studies, and in 1927, after obtaining a diploma as an engineer in reinforced concrete and steel structures, he began to work independently. When Nazism became stronger in Germany, the graduate engineer returned to Lithuania. Rozenbliumas did his compulsory military service in the Lithuanian army while designing various military objects. Anatolijus soon began to work with the most famous Lithuanian architects of the time. The appearance of the Officers' Quarters, Šančiai Gymnasium, the Central Post Office, the Faculty of Medicine, the Research Laboratory and many other buildings in Lithuania is his merit – the structures are wearing the clothes of the architects he designed. But it was the sports hall that brought him fame and recognition.

Although the architectural part of the building was entrusted to the architect S. Kudokas, it was an engineering structure that resembled an industrial hangar rather than a sports hall. The construction was based on a structure of four riveted arches, which were both easy to design and quick to build. Between the arches, there were two skylights to let natural light into the hall. Nevertheless, the construction of a technically complex building had to be completed in record time - less than six months, half of which was spent in winter, the least favourite season for construction. Work began in December 1938 and was carried out day and night. The foundations were poured in freezing temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and heated by special equipment. This was followed by the steel arches' fabrication and installation, drilling the holes and riveting them by hand. The construction mobilised all the locksmiths not only in the city but also in the suburbs. In May 1939, at the end of spring, the first training sessions began in the 13,000-seat sports hall.

However, the basketball championship, which was due to take place in the spring of 1940, did not occur due to the war outbreak in Europe. After surviving the explosions of bombs dropped nearby during the Second World War and being replaced several times over time, the building has become a part of many significant events in Lithuanian statehood and sports history. Today, it still stands as a silent monument not only to the history of Lithuanian sport but also to its creator.

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