Discussions and awards at the urban issues forum2017-10-23
Architects, urban geography experts, representatives of municipal government administrations and communities, and real estate developers gathered last Friday in Panevėžys in the traditional, eleventh urban issues forum to discuss the future of Lithuanian cities.
Vice-Minister of the Environment Martynas Norbutas inaugurated the forum and wished that harmonious relations between the four main elements – wood, road, home and human being – be always taken into account during discussions. According to Mr. Norbutas, the role of society in attempts to combine these four elements is of crucial importance. This idea was supported by Robertas Dargis, chairman of the board of the Lithuanian Real Estate Development Association. He noted that only city residents can determine the city future, which means that the role of self-governance must be strengthened.
Participants of the forum listened to speeches from renowned foreign urban geography experts and learned about international experience in the field. Despite Lithuania’s attempts to keep pace with European planning trends, to date the gap remains considerable. Our urban geography projects in many instances are limited to the planning of the physical environment and lack an integrated approach.
The Lithuanian Urban Charter is being prepared to stipulate the principles of urban policy development. Dovilė Lazauskaitė, chief specialist of the Urban Geography and Architecture Division of the Construction and Spatial Planning Department of the Ministry of the Environment, introduced the guidelines of the charter. Marius Narmontas, director of the department, talked about the need to have such national guidelines. This need arises from the long-term urban geography forum experience, the Pact of Amsterdam signed in 2016 and outlining the Urban Agenda for the EU, and the New Urban Agenda adopted at the Habitat III Conference.
Participants of the forum discussed key urban problems of the country in several specialised working groups. The Ministry of the Environment organised the creative workshop “A better public administration system for urban development,” the objective of which, according to moderator Marius Narmontas, was to contribute to the strengthening of strategic thinking in public administration institutions and to the improvement of the management of the operations of these institutions. There was an emphasis on the fact that, in the priority areas of public policies, whereby a problem arises due to a variety of social and economic factors and cities being the centres of these operations, there is a need to extensively harmonise opinions and look for an agreement of ministries, local authorities and professional associations.
During the forum, Vice-Ministers of the Environment Rėda Brandišauskienė and Martynas Norbutas gave awards from the Ministry of the Environment for creative achievements in the field of urban geography and architecture for the year 2017.
Architects Gintaras Balčytis, Jurgita Šniepienė, Kęstutis Vaikšnoras and Paulius Vaitiekūnas received an award in the non-residential structures category for the building of Kaunas bus station. According to the evaluation commission, this project was an unsurpassed leader. “We will hardly have a similar project in the near future, and this project was not an easy task, which required over 10 years of hard work and was associated with a number of challenges,” said Ms. Brandišauskienė. Gintaras Balčytis said when he received the award: “Given the urban trends and the ideas of the forum, I should encourage all people to opt for public transport and buses instead of personal cars. In this manner, we will be able to contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere globally and actually learn about the good architecture.”
The award for the best innovative structure went to architect Mantas Mickevičius who had participated in the reconstruction of a two-level intersection in Marijampolė. As Ms. Brandišauskienė noted, this structure received the award for the important contribution from the architect.
Public Relations Department
23 October 2017