SMAR Architecture Prevails in Final Round in Lithuania


Image: ©SMAR Architecture Studio


After several near misses in some recent high profile competitions, Aalto Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Lima Museum of Contemporary Art, SMAR Architecture Studio (Madrid/Western Australia) was rewarded with the commission for the Science Island project in Kuanas, Lithuania. Against some stiff competition from 144 competitors from around the world in that events initial, open stage, SMAR, together with two other finalists, were selected to refine their schemes in a second stage.


Science Center at night ©SMAR Architecture Studio


SMAR’s approach to the design challenge for this site was in marked contrast to its two finalist competitors—SimpsonHaugh and Partners (London/Manchester, U.K.) and Donghua Chen Team (Beijing, China). Whereas SMAR proposed a large tilted disc as the entrance to a museum embedded in the park, the other two teams each suggested large commanding structures. Although they obviously carried out the functional requirements of the brief, in the end they presented a somewhat antithetical approach to the park idea.*


SMAR’s more subtle approach, with the disc as significant arrival symbol, caught the favor of the jury from the very beginning. The words of SMAR principal, Fernando Jerez, summed up their strategy in a nutshell with the question: WHY ANOTHER BUILDING?”


According to the SMAR narrative, “The Island has already one building, the Zalguiris Arena. What if, instead of designing a new building, the proposal follows what is already there, (the guidelines of the site) to find a natural connection with nature—with Nemunas Island? The proposal takes advantage of the natural slope and the different topographical levels of the island. Following the main road that crosses the island from the Zalguiris Arena east to west. The New Nemunas Island Museum will take advantage of the natural slope that already exists.”




In the second, development phase of the competition, SMAR’s elimination of the basement to reduce the cost of the project did not alter the visual impact of their building enough to raise doubts in the minds of the community. It is still the design that squarely places the park idea in the forefront.


Because of a recent statement by the professional adviser, Malcolm Reading, we now know that SMAR was a clear jury favorite from the very beginning. To some locals, this may at first have seemed a rather unusual solution to the project. But after living with it for a short period, it would have become clear to the community that this was a clear and logical solution.


Presentation image from 1st round ©SMAR Architecture Studio


Cafe perspective

Diagrams indicating changes and improvements in second, development phase ©SMAR Architecture Studio


*For commentary and images from the first, open stage of the competition with presentations from the three finalists: