Along Kaunakiemio street in Kaunas, Lithuania, an office building that was completed in 2018 is in harmonious dialogue with the old and new buildings in the historical city block. Identity of the building’s southern end was strengthened with Cor-Ten cladding delivered by Ruukki.
The office building along Kaunakiemio street close to busy M. K. Čiurlionis Bridge in Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania, was completed in 2018. A dairy that was established at the site in 1936 was closed down at the turn of the 21st century, and the abandoned city block was allowed to fall into disrepair.
“It was a large and very interesting project where a variety of different activities were placed in an old industrial area. They had to be coordinated in terms of both the architecture and the functions,” explains Kestutis Kajokas, an architect from architectural firm Kancas studio, which designed the building and the entire city block.
Built on a plot owned by the city, the building includes offices, commercial premises and 65 apartments, most of them one- or two-room. The 9,570 square metre building is owned by an investment company.
“The client would have liked even more floor space, but that was not possible if the balance in the area was to be retained. The land use plan of Kaunas determined the floor area ratio and the form of the building,” Kestutis Kajokas explains the design preconditions.
Building something new at a historical location
“A fifth of the building was restored and the rest was built anew. Our task was, in a way, to recreate the building,” Kestutis Kajokas says.
Started in 2016 and concluded in 2018, the project was Kancas studio second large-scale project in the area. A development project at the northern end of the city block was completed in 2012.
The client who placed an order for the design of the office building that was completed in 2018 gave the architectural firm plenty of freedom in design. In addition to creating a functional building, the architectural firm aimed to design an exterior face that would fit in with the old buildings of the historical city block.
“The windows of the new building were grouped in the same way as in the old one – the new building was made a companion to the old one,” Kestutis Kajokas explains one of the many design solutions.
Cor-Ten as a bridge between old and new
The southern part of the building was clad with Liberta Cor-Ten 700 cassettes delivered by Ruukki.
“We suggested to the client that this part of the building should have a unique look. We were trying to achieve a dialogue between the old and new architecture: the new exterior face had to match the old brick exterior faces in the city block. Cor-Ten has just the right texture, structure and colour to achieve this. We were also able to convince the client of this,” Kestutis Kajokas explains the reasoning behind the material selection.
Plaster was also considered as one of the options for the exterior face, but several factors were in favour of Cor-Ten. Cor-Ten is weather-resistant and maintenance-free. It is a natural material, and its dark colour is well suited for areas close to busy streets: dirt will not show so well on the exterior face.
Functional cooperation guaranteed success
Kestutis Kajokas explains that they submitted to Ruukki an exterior face plan with the underlying idea of emphasising the vertical effect. Ruukki responded with a proposal realised with Cor-Ten.
“The design cooperation was very smooth and excellently coordinated on Ruukki’s side: decisions were made quickly and correct deliveries came on time,” Kestutis Kajokas praises the successful project.
“It was a hard but interesting project, because traditions had to be reconciled with new technology. You rarely see such large projects for such a central location on your desk.”