Bus station designed as tree-filled social hub

Lithuanian practice Balcytis Studija has completed a new bus station in Vilkaviškis, a small city in the south-west of the country.

Situated across from the Vilkaviškis Cultural Centre, the new 11,300 sq m station project was designed to function both as an efficient piece of transport infrastructure and as a welcoming social hub. The triangular site hosts an aluminium-clad 3,300 sq m building with cafes, shops and services as well as sheltered public realm and open-air landscaped green space.

Such extensive, accessible open space enables a variety of public activities to take place on the site, including markets and concerts, as well as everyday recreational use.

Having a close relationship to nature was an important principle underlying Bal?ytis’ approach. Instead of removing the trees that were on the plot before development, the design incorporated them, where they punctuate the sheltered public space.

The trees rise through large holes cut into the concrete roof to accommodate them, creating a playful design language echoed by circular soil beds below. These openings also create shifting patterns of sunlight throughout the day. The concrete roof is held up by slender white-painted metal pillars, maintaining an open flow of space.

Minimal and low-lying, the project resembles more a modernist pavilion than a busy station. Slender red letters on the roofline elegantly announce its presence. For all these thoughtful and public-focused design touches, the bus station has been nominated for the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award 2022.