L’ chaim : rethinking the Memorial

Ieva Baranauskaite
Urbanism & Societal Change

L’chaim (Hebrew : Chaim - “life”, Chai - “alive”), is used as a toast, meaning “to life”.


The project works with the notion of memory and seeks to bring back to life the history and the culture that were lost.

 Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has always been a place of different nations and a city with more than one identity. During the WWII, it lost the majority of the residents together with the stories and memories that remained untold to the new inhabitants. Although in the 19th century almost half of the city’s population were Jews and because of the intellectual and artistic aspirations the city was internationally known as Jerusalem of the North, it was totally destroyed during the WWII and completely vanished over the years of the Soviet occupation.
The project is taking place in the previously Jewish Ghetto area - it is a site of the Great Synagogue - the cultural center and the most significant symbol of Jerusalem of the North. The area, partly destroyed during the WWII and completely demolished following the Soviet Renewal, was turned into a massive square and a Soviet kindergarden was built on top of the ruins. 
The project seeks to work with the notion of memory and questions the definition of a traditional memorial. What is there to be remembered? What can be forgotten?
Not excluding anything, the moments of different historical periods are curated and combined, and the whole courtyard becomes a Memorial, which is expressed through the sequence of fragments. The new addition - a salon - forms a node where the three dominating periods of history - Jewish, Soviet and Contemporary are brought together with certain proximity, exhibits the surroundings and gives a possibility to turn the Memorial into a place for the daily life activities. Layering becomes the main principal, used throughout the whole process on the different levels of the project.

Ruins of the old Synagogue
Existing site elements
Ruins of the Synagogue

The courtyard is curated with the help of punctual interventions - some of them are related to the existing historical elements of different periods, some of them are new, seeking to bring back the life and the culture.

Site plan of the courtyard

The images are showing interventions and interpretations of different historical elements of the courtyard.

Plan of the three main elements
The merger of three main elements