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Kaunas State Printing House

Kaunas, Lithuania
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Žilvinas Rinkšelis, 2020.

The construction of this colossal building, which occupies almost an entire block, was driven by the need to have a modern state printing house with good technical equipment which would fully meet the needs of the state press. This was also motivated by the fact that, until then, most of the press's needs had been met through foreign printing houses, which did not generate financial returns for the Lithuanian State.

In 1923, the first international architectural competition in independent Lithuania was announced for the construction of the building. It was open to citizens of various countries. The main condition was to meet the needs of the printing house to provide premises for the newspaper's editorial office and the employees' apartments. The competition was won by Henrik Fischer of Germany. The author professionally designed a production building to suit the functions of a printing house, giving it a modernised German classical exterior and a functional interior so that the interior spaces could be easily changed in the future or whenever necessary. This became especially true when the palace was handed over to the University in 1927. Incidentally, the subsequent adaptation for the Central Palace of Vytautas Magnus University was prepared by the architect V. Landsbergis-Zemkalnis, a young and promising architect at the time, for whom this was one of his first architectural practices.

The construction work was awarded to the Berlin construction firm Becker-Fiebig-Bauunion. Around 200 workers, hired from various European countries, worked on the construction site. According to people who lived at the time, Italian, Polish and German could be heard here. The completed printing house was equipped with the most modern technological equipment of the time, which was not yet available to a large part of the population: central heating, water supply and sewage. Even the nearby Žemaičių Street was paved for the State Printing House, as a durable road was needed to deliver paper and transport printing machines. The palace, which opened its doors, housed not only the printing house with paper warehouses, auxiliary rooms, a printing machine department, a print shop, and a bookbindery but also an administrative building and the editorial office of the daily newspaper "Lietuva".

The construction of the State Printing House has been the subject of controversy on several occasions. The public and the owners did not spare any praise for the building - the new printing house was the largest and most modern in Lithuania. It also reduced the prominence of the fortress buildings, which had been the only dominant feature in the environment and contributed to the shaping of the new city centre. As a result, the image of the province was gradually fading. However, the palace was reviled and criticised by architectural experts. At that time, the debate on the creation of Lithuanian architecture had already begun.

The printing house looked magnificent, but the need for such a large-scale production facility was questioned shortly after its construction. The construction was also criticised as an irresponsible waste of public funds. So, in 1927, the State Printing House was handed over to the growing University, and the facilities were handed over to the Spindulys Printing House, built in 1928.

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