Studio Seilern Architects (SSA) has unveiled Boksto 6, a major transformation of a disused site in Vilnius, Lithuania into a contemporary mixed-use space in the heart of the city’s old town. Boksto 6 comprises a 13,000 square metre complex of six buildings, featuring private residences, over 3,000 square metres of offices, a health club and spa complete with a 25-metre swimming pool, a restaurant, chapel, and performance space.
Large central courtyards and lush green gardens are open to the public for the provision of an active space within the historic old town. The project is a bold reimagining of a UNESCO world heritage site into a vibrant community complex, complementing the historic architectural foundations with new dimensions to make it fit for modern, dynamic use.
Design approach: Insertions rather than extensions
Boksto 6 is the culmination of over 10 years of design, development, and collaboration with local partners. The studio utilised the Gothic vaulted cellars for the sunken restaurant, opening up the surroundings so that natural light floods into the space and links to the public courtyard where visitors can dwell. Boksto 6’s status as a protected asset meant the brickwork of the underground cellars could not be broken up or modified.
The exposed bricks now create part of the visitor experience to the subterranean health spa with a 25-metre swimming pool. The ancient clock tower is repurposed as office space, utilising glass walls and flooring to present elements of the old building into the new design. For the roof, SSA used an arrangement of anodised aluminium slats to allow natural light into the building while maintaining the appearance of a solid roof, another condition of the planning permissions to keep the building in line with neighbouring architecture.
The choice of materials plays with the concept of merging the old and new and demonstrating how the two work together. Polished stainless steel is used for the external lift, turning a pragmatic addition into a sculptural piece that reflects the space back onto itself. Similarly for the reflective roof of the restaurant, invoking the surface of water and adding a whimsical feel to the space.
Rather than obscuring or hiding its ancient components, these additions both complement and elevate the site’s original architecture. The buildings are organised around a central courtyard which is reimagined into an open, public space, with lush green gardens bringing a natural element in balanced contrast to the crisp lines and solidity of the buildings.
History of Boksto 6
The original site embodied the rich culture and history of Lithuania through the layers of architectural styles, from Gothic through to classic Baroque structures and designs. Over its almost 500-year history, the buildings were repurposed and reused several times including becoming a hospital and a chapel.
Surrounded by some of the oldest streets in Vilnius, the walled site represented a significant amount of social and cultural history that it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site. After falling into disrepair in 1999 and subsequently being left unused, the space was reimagined by SSA as a dynamic and thriving new space that reflects a modern European city.
SSA began working on the project in 2008 and undertook several years of complex exploratory research and planning while navigating building permissions rooted in post-Soviet legislation. Working closely with a local conservation architecture practice to ensure as much of the original building was saved as possible, the design went through several iterations before deciding on a mixed-use concept.
The initial period of planning focussed on uncovering what elements of the original architecture could be salvaged and restored, and what would be stripped away. The addition of minimal contemporary insertions complement the existing structures, and expose their most beautiful and interesting parts to remain part of the fabric of the building while making them fit for use.
A space that gives back to the city
The original site of Boksto 6 was acquired by the Oritz family; prominent retail entrepreneurs who wanted to preserve the historic integrity of the site and transform it into a space for the whole city to experience. Its location in the old town naturally lent itself to becoming a new legacy space in the city and, since its completion in September 2022, has sparked a new wave of urban regeneration as the city invested in the renewal of several surrounding streets.
Boksto 6 embodies a mixed-use space in its truest form. Thoughtful design and a deep appreciation of classic architecture means a forgotten part of the city has been transformed into an active space that is full of life. The project is a bold, contemporary take on an ancient site that pays homage to its Lithuanian history and retains the essence of its architectural roots. Source by Studio Seilern Architects.
Photo © Roland Halbe
Location: Vilnius, Lithuania
Architect: Studio Seilern Architects
Lead Architect: Christina Seilern
Local Architect: UAB Archinova LT
Local Services Engineer: NIT projektai
Local Structural Engineer: Elvora LT
Client: UAB OGVY
Area: 13,265 m2
Completion Date: 2023