Infrastructure Hub as Urban Revitalization Catalyst


Vilnius Railway Station and Public Square Competition


Vilnius Station competition Image: ©Zaha Hadid Architects



Aerial view of Vilnius railway station (2021) 


In European cities, recent history has seen their central railway stations become the subject of upgrades, or totally new projects, many of them springing up in Eastern Europe. In most cases, the focus on this phenomena occurred several decades after earth-shaking political events. In Germany it was the construction of a new main central station (Hauptbahnhof) shortly after the reunification of Germany and Berlin. in Estonia, and now Lithuania, it has occurred after the independence of those countries in conjunction with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And in Hungary, it was the subject of a recent competition encompassing a large area surrounding the station.
   All of the above have one thing in common: they have been the result of design competitions. In Berlin (1993-2006), gmp (von Gerkan Marg & Partner), In Budapest (2022), Grimshaw, and in Tallinn, Estonia (2019) and recently in Vilnius, Lithuania (2021), Zaha Hadid Architects.



Hauptbahnhof Berlin, Competition 1993 – 1. Rang; Bauzeit: 1996–2006 Photo: courtesy ©gmp


Ülemiste (Rail Baltica) Station Competition Tallinn, Estonia  Image: ©Zaha Hadid Architects


Before launching the competition for the Vilnius central station area, it would seem that the community was intent on leaving little to chance, bringing clear focus to areas that could produce the best ideas from a competition. Organized by the Lithuanian Union of Architects for this purpose, a workshop including city planners and specialists of other fields came together to brainstorm the project’s issues.

The results of this workshop can be seen from the client’s competition brief:

“The desire is to create such spaces that correspond to the best examples of Western European railway stations, and the station would not only be a start or the end point of travel, but also a new attraction centre with leisure and service spaces, comfortable connections for pedestrians, cyclists, and everyone choosing comfortable and eco-friendly trips by train.

   The participants will have to create an iconic and globally recognizable international railway station project, offer a public transport service infrastructure that would represent Lithuania and Vilnius in compliance with the highest quality standards, form an attractive station square, and offer an idea for a viable and connecting Station district urban centre.

The goal is that any person who arrives by train or bus to the city immediately sees that it is a vibrant city of the future, and when they step into the station square or street, they will feel that the city is cozy, green, and inspiring.

Projects for the reconstruction of stations in the world’s capital cities usually take place only once in a century, so this is a historic opportunity to define a vision for future generations. The partnership between the City and the businesses for regeneration of the station district reflects our determination to open up previously closed industrial spaces for the city and to adapt them for the people.”

The international reaction to the announcement of the competition resulted in the submission of 33 entries. Of these, the top five prize winners received cash prizes totaling €120,000:

1st Prize €50,000
Zaha Hadid Architects, London, U.K.

2nd Prize €30,000
B&M Architects Ltd, Arkkitehtuuritoimisto B & M Oy, Helsinki, Finland 

3rd Prize €20,000
SBS Engineering Group Sp. z o. o., Kraków, Poland

4th Prize €10,000
UAB Archinova, PLH Arkitekter A/S, MB Studija “Heima”, Vilnius/Copenhagen

5th Prize €10,000
Shenzhen Aube Architectural Engineering Design CO., Ltd, Shenzhen, China


The Competition Results
All of the competition ranked entries regarded an elevated concourse linking all of the track platforms as a logical solution to the passenger circulation issue. Resolving the problem the tracks imposed as an obstacle separating two neighborhoods was evidently best solved by the winning Zaha Hadid’s team’s design. In general terms, the main features of the winning entry were best expressed by Vilnius’ Chief Architect, Mindaugas Pakalnis:
“We received many strong proposals that can enrich the architectural face of the city. Designers of the commission’s preferred concept, Zaha Hadid Architects, know Vilnius and have extensive experience designing detailed projects that include the Rail Baltica station in Tallinn. The concept presents a unique, recognizable, contextually appropriate design for the new station terminal that creates network of public spaces of the highest quality and establishes important connections between the Naujininkai, Naujamiestis and Senamiestis districts of the city. In addition, it successfully combines functional and aesthetic solutions and creates opportunities to convert the former railway maintenance yard and surrounding areas. Of course, this is only an initial idea that can be explored and developed in detail.”


In retrospect, it would appear that the Zaha Hadid team’s attention paid to the possible uses of the plaza facing the main entrance on one side of the tracts, as well as to the approach to the station on the other side, did set it apart from most of the other entries. The conversion of the plaza facing the main station entrance, to a version of what some would recognize as a ‘pocket park’ containing an attractive green space was an innovative use of that parcel, and sure to be an attraction as a place both for pause and as meeting destination under ideal weather conditions. In that sense, one could well imagine the popularity of a summer cafe embedded in that green space. -Ed



1st Prize (€50,000)
Zaha Hadid Architects
London, U.K.











Unless otherwise noted, all above images: ©Zaha Hadid Architects







2nd Prize (€30,000)
B&M Architects Ltd, Arkkitehtuuritoimisto B & M Oy
Helsinki, Finland 











Unless otherwise noted, all images ©B&M Architects, Ltd.




3rd Prize €20,000
SBS Engineering Group Sp. z o. o.
Kraków, Poland












Unless otherwise noted, all images ©SBS Engineering Group Sp. z o. o




4th Prize €10,000
UAB Archinova, PLH Arkitekter A/S, MB Studija “Heima”







Unless otherwise noted, all images ©UAB Archinova, PLH Arkitekter A/S






5th Prize €10,000
Shenzhen Aube Architectural Engineering Design CO., Ltd
Shenzhen, China









Unless otherwise noted, all images ©Shenzhen Aube Architectural Engineering Design CO