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Balciute, Sima

Vilnius Station District architectural-urban analysis and regeneration plan - Actor-Network-Teory approch.

Rel. Alessandro Armando. Politecnico di Torino, Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura costruzione citta', 2015


First time confronted as architectural project site during my internship (in the summer of 2013 at architecture and urbanism company “Vilniaus planas”, in Vilnius, Lithuania), Vilnius Station District appeared to me an interesting urban and architectural study object with multiple factors forming it's present face. That time the task of my work was to reorganize the space in front of Vilnius Railway and Bus Stations and to simply “fit in more car parking space”.

However, drawing any architectural project for this site appeared a complicated task because of complex urban context: local history, high rate of criminality, urban functional heterogeneousity, public transport nodes, depressive green squares and other physical, social, economical, political, cultural characteristics all together formed a tangled context hardly fitting to any of global analytical frameworks. At the same time, detailed global and local views of the site were necessary in order to make any adequate architectural move on the site.

Although 1 finally succeeded to generalize my research and to draw some architectural solutions, this project seemed to me uncompleted and worth closer look not only in to the design content, but especially to the tools of inquiry of urban context for architectural project.

An other interesting point about working on this project is that through the last decade the city of Vilnius has developed rapidly, it has expanded, it has developed multiple interesting urban projects and has renewed it's face and management system. Some of the biggest changes (since 2000) are reflected in the map no.l “Vilnius. Principal Implemented Public Projects 2000-2014”.

More urban projects were planned and are waiting for implementation, but are not reflected in the map. Among them - Vilnius Station District regeneration, foreseeing covering of the railway platforms, connection of the Old Town and Naujininkai districts and creation of a new business and commerce center. This project was first proposed to Lithuanian Railways company by United Architects Workshop architect P. Kijauskas in 2002, but has not been implemented for more than a decade now. Overall, Station District was not renovated since 1953, except for soviet symbols demolishment in the early 1990ies, restoration of Railway and Bus stations interiors and facades in 2000 and renovation of Hales market in 2006. No other significant urban reorganizations were made and area's development was driven by small chaotic private activities on private soils and inside private buildings. Pavement, car parking spaces, squares, inner islets spaces, urban equipment are maintained with minimum efforts, are in a rather safe for environment state, but their quality do not answer to city's needs any more. Moreover, any developments of bigger scale projects seem to struggle with basically economic obstacles and this situation requires a new

planning approach.

And finally, Vilnius was my home city for five years and will definitely be my home city in the near future. Having followed full architecture studies course abroad gives many advantages like ability to make a step back and to see the things from the side, but it also leads to some misunderstandings when back to home professional environment. As I experienced during my short architectural internships in Vilnius, 1 had some professional gaps like no education in local architectural or urban history or no knowledge of local architectural or territorial planning law. It was a serious obstacle for me willing to integrate into Lithuanian professional world of architecture. So, working on a project located in Vilnius was a possibility to fill these professional gaps ant to integrate myself into my home professional environment.

A few months later, in Politecnico di Torino, when choosing master's thesis subject, 1 proposed Vilnius Station District to my final thesis director and I also described to him the problematics of urban context. I asked for an advice on a possible “theoretical or analytical frame” that would help me to analyze all the data that I collected so far and to also have a new look to the site. My final thesis director proposed Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) and some readings of Bruno Latour and Albena Yaneva. I was happy to have a reference and I agreed to try this approach, but at that time 1 had actually had no idea, that ANT was not really an approach and definitely not a framework, as B. Latour has stated in his “Reassembling the Social...” (2005). But, as it appeared later, it was a powerful tool for urban analysis, able to give new sights to complex urban environments like Vilnius Station District.

My first knowledge of ANT was through the work of Dr. Albena Yaneva students at Manchester School of Architecture, published on the website http://mappingcontroversies.co.uk. I have also listened to her lecture given in, what an accident, Vilnius at National Art Gallery, called “Mapping Controversies in Architecture: a New Epistemology of Practice”, on 10 May, 2011. The first thing that appeared to me very attractive from the very beginning was the ability to put various actors into one seemingly very realistic map. It seemed to be very complex, very big, asking for a scrupulous work and a collection of a lot of data, but at the end the general view was not overfilled with some philosophical, sociological or political concepts and considerations, or was not aiming to explain the whole by looking from a very specific point of view, but reflected the reality as it was -tangled, complex, heterogeneous and chaotic.

Later I continued my research on ANT and after multiple other readings I chose to follow the research methodology explained in B. Latour's “Reassembling the Social...” which is a synthesis of B. Latour's previous work on ANT and a practical introduction to the ANT research

methodology. I used ANT, as described in by B. Latour, as a toolkit to follow and to account the network of actors (actants) and their connections in this empirical case, by constantly asking what they do and how they work. The main goal of this study was to get a dynamic understanding of the processes in the Station District, that make potential buildings in chosen site possible. Hopefully, with the help of ANT, my study has contributed to pragmatist, realist understanding of urban architecture and design practice, without taking no privileged point of view, relying on symmetrical understanding of nature and culture.

Relatori: Alessandro Armando
Soggetti: A Architettura > AO Progettazione
U Urbanistica > UK Pianificazione urbana
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura costruzione citta'
URI: http://webthesis.biblio.polito.it/id/eprint/4132


Introduction: Why Vilnius Station's District and Why Actor-Network-Theory?

Tracking Urban Analysis and Planning Process Using ANT

Part I: Urban Analysis - Mapping Controversy About Vilnius Station District

Mapping Actors in Action:

A. Actors - Institutions

B. Actors - Individuals and Their Collectives

C. Actors - Buildings

D. Actors - Documents

E. Actors -Ambiguous

Analyzing the data:

Most Involved Actors

Most Widespread Concerns

Analysis Summary

Part II: Urban Planning

Architectural Urban Project Program

Project Schemes:

Pathways and View-Points Scheme

Islets Development Scheme

Historical Building Lines Scheme

General District Plan and Architectural Projects Examples




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