Public spaces of modernistic large scale housing estate  

How can public spaces stimulate regeneration of a socialist housing neighbourhood?

The biggest part of the urban population in Lithuania is living in prefabricated large-scale housing estates. Rumpiskes district in Klaipėda is one of them. The neighborhood was built in the 1970-ies as an exemplary residential district with high quality public spaces. 45 apartment buildings were spread around Oak’s Grove Park. The local center and its Vaidila square were designed as one modernist complex with authentic ethnic art elements. However, during the past 50 years without any renovation the neighborhood and its spaces have slowly deteriorated physically, visually and mentally. The houses in the estates in Lithuania are privately owned and their renovation happens very slowly, therefore, the only way municipalities can significantly improve life quality in these neighborhoods is to improve the quality of open public spaces.

In 2015 adopted urban vision drew key projects for Rumpiskes neighborhood revitalization – renewal of public spaces with its most iconic locations – Vaidila square and Oak’s Grove Park. EU financial support was directed to finance the project. Many public participation activities were organized to define a new identity of the public spaces. Public presentations, discussions and workshops on architectural models helped to hear resident’s needs, test different scenarios and choose desired options.

The large-scale housing estate is one of the densest city parts. There are 13000 residents living in the neighborhoods around the park. Furthermore, there are more elderly people and one person households than in other parts of the city. Therefore, providing places for people to meet and socialize was essential. In the public spaces we had a goal to create an environment that encourages people to meet, socialize and live healthier – spend more active time outdoors. For that, different identity and program areas were designed.

The most urban space is Vaidila square. We retained its original rectangular structure character in the new design, but added new activities and spaces. There is significantly more greenery and trees in the new square and more playfulness: “dancing” water fountain, a stage for community events, children’s playgrounds, urban furniture – modular benches for various relaxing opportunities – sitting, lounging, small gatherings. These benches are particularly popular among the elderly residents. The old fountain was renovated and the wooden sculptures Vaidila, Aitvaras and Bildukas were restored. New bicycle path coming from the main city streets connects the square with Oaks Grove Park.
Contrast to the urban square is the natural Oaks Grove Park. Places responding to different residents’ needs are spread in the woody park landscape. There is an active and loud cluster on one side of the park with various sport fields, fitness areas and playgrounds for kids and teenagers. The other side of the park has a calm and relaxing atmosphere. There are water ponds with local birds, small sunny or shaded islands with benches and flowers. Continuous cycling and walking loop path connects smaller paths and recreation spots dotted in between the old oak trees and houses. The loop path is a favorite place for residents not only to do sports, but also to go out, show themselves, look at others and meet the neighbors.
Vaidila Square together with the Oaks Grove Park project is an example of how the old soviet neighborhood and their public spaces can acquire a modern and cozy face. The renewal of public spaces stimulated overall district regeneration: value of the buildings around the spaces is growing and their owners are more willing to invest in renewal. The image of the district is changing as well – previously forgotten neighborhood becomes a desired place to live. The new public space design kept qualities of modernist planning ideas but enriched the neighborhood with new qualities – spaces that encourage social inclusion, equity, community empowerment, active lifestyle and teenager occupation.

Additional project information:
Project site area – 97,300 sq.m.
Project cost – 3,040,000 Eur
Client – Klaipeda City municipality
Designer – Urbanism studio PUPA

Project location: Taikos pr. 39T, Klaipėda 91150, Lithuania

Design year: 2015 urban vision was adopted, 2017-2019 public space design

Year Built: 2021

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