We have brought together a team of young designers to address some important questions concerning the re-emergence of the building into the life of 21st-century Vilnius. One week contextual design research project takes place at the renovation of a Vilnius landmark: the synagogue on Gėlių street. It is one of only eight such buildings to survive in the city, currently undergoing extensive restoration works. It will likely play a role in the continuity of Jewish life in the city, but its future function is as yet undetermined. The designers stem from different backgrounds and they have different approaches to ‘what design can do’. The presentation on Sunday will consist of ideas, associations and suggestions, not of definitive projects. They are all in some way connected to the long history of the building and of Jewish presence in Lithuania, but they are not intended as memorials. Instead, the presentations intend to serve as starting points for future projects, concerning questions that occupy many communities in the globalised world: how to weave strands of culture, tradition, heritage, religion, identity and history into the fabric of contemporary life?
Koen Kleijn (Design Academy Eindhoven)
Vytautas Gečas (performative design association, Vilnius)
Martynas Užpelkis (the Lithuanian Jewish community)
Zavl’s Kloyz The synagogue on Gėlių street dates back to 1817, when the wealthy merchant and philanthropist Shmuel Zanvil son of Pesah Germaize, known as Reb Zavl, first established a prayer house in a wooden building on the site. In 1817, this building burnt down; a year later Zavl Germaize and his son-in-law David Levinson donated the whole courtyard to the worshippers, who promised to build there ‘a prayer house with a kloyz’- a synagogue with a ‘closed’ centre for continuous prayer and study. Zavl’s Kloyz soon took a prominent place among the Vilnius’ synagogues. In 1921 Khaykl Lunski (ca 1881-1942/3) called it ‘one of the largest and most important’ kloyzn in Vilnius. In 1916 there were 120 regular worshippers whose number increased to 192 by 1923. In addition, the kloyz possessed a house at 5 Sodų Street, which provided an income for its upkeep. The synagogue was renovated and expanded in 1892-93 and in 1896. It operated until 1940. After World War II it housed storage facilities, apartments and a bakery. From 1990 it stood abandoned. With the support of both the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture and the Goodwill Foundation, major restoration works are now underway. Work on the exterior of the building is near completion; the interior, however, still requires major reconstruction.
Agne Kucerenkaite - https://www.agne-k.com/
Austėja Šeputė - https://www.behance.net/semaskaite
Dion Soethoudt - http://www.studiosoethoudt.com/
Erez Nevi Pana - http://papipana.com/
Gali Blay - http://www.galiblay.com/
Kotryna Butautytė - http://butautyte.tumblr.com/
Marija Puipaitė - http://www.marijapuipaite.com/
Project management: Vytautas Gečas (performative design association, Vilnius) Koen Kleijn (Design Academy Eindhoven)
Supported by Lithuanian Council for Culture Lithuanian Jewish Community Performative design association Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum Vilnius academy of arts, design department