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Construction begins on Science Island

Ground broken on new National Science and Innovation Centre, following Lithuania’s most popular design contest – an MRC competition

Science Island

© SMAR Architecture

Construction has begun this month on Lithuania’s new National Science and Innovation Centre, aka Science Island, located in the university city of Kaunas, a forthcoming European Capital of Culture.

In 2016, MRC launched the much-followed Science Island International Design Contest to find a design for the museum, which will popularise science through hands-on enquiry, celebrating recent achievements in science and technology.

Lithuania’s second largest city, Kaunas is a former industrial centre that has since reinvented itself as a hub of creativity, culture and academia. With an abundance of museums, galleries, theatres and eight universities, Kaunas has a distinctly youthful and artistic atmosphere, and will be a European Capital of Culture in 2022. Kaunas’s unique blend of pre-war and modernist architecture has also led it to be the first city in central and eastern Europe to be a designated UNESCO City of Design.

The €25 million Science Island will sit on a 13,000 square metre site within a dramatic location: Nemunas Island, a 33-hectare recreational and leisure space which offers panoramic views over Kaunas’s medieval Old Town.

Science Island will focus on environmental themes and ecosystems, demonstrating sustainability and future energy technologies in the design of its own building. A symbol of the city, the museum will crystallise the emerging identity of Kaunas.

Science Island

© SMAR Architecture

Malcolm Reading Consultants was appointed to manage a one-stage design contest, where a concept design was selected anonymously. The process was a great success, attracting 144 diverse entries from 44 countries – the most popular design contest ever held in Lithuania.

In compliance with Lithuanian law, the top three studios were asked to tender, before Spanish/Australian firm SMAR Architecture Studio was appointed to develop their concept through to completion on site.

Aistė Lukaševičiūtė, the Head of Investment and Project Division at Kaunas City Municipal Administration, said, “Science Island was a great competition process that generated incredible results. The contest prompted global interest in Kaunas, as well as providing best practice for future Lithuanian design competitions.”

Read more about the Science Island International Design Contest.