2018 Sydney Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis Concert Centre



Project Overview

MHNDU’s Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis Concert Centre design, through its form and materiality offers not only quality internal areas for musicians and patrons but also exemplary public spaces for the people of Kaunas.

The primary goal of the masterplan was to connect cultural infrastructure development with the future growth of the city. Our design is also deeply informed by the site’s ecological value and the part that the site will play in the restoration of the river’s edge. We saw an opportunity to redraw the edge of the river to give rise to a changeable and playful landscape, borrowing from the dynamic quality of water and the artwork of M.K. Ciurlionis. Within this water landscape, there is also potential for the integration of sustainable water management practices that will protect Kaunas against flooding associated with climate change.

The architectural solution for the concert centre was driven by a desire to create large unimpeded public plaza spaces below the building envelope. The form itself was conceived from the sculpting of these public spaces at the ground level from the building forms within the historical town centre. The painting ‘The Past’ by M.K Ciurlionis, the artist after the concert centre was named, was used as a reference to generate the angled form that encompasses the public spaces below. The overarching solid form is deliberately peeled away at the ground to expose a dynamic and vibrant public space within. This provides a portal that overlooks the river and across to Science Island.

Project Commissioner

Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC)

Project Creator



MHNDU is an inventive practice focused on excellence in design. Over the years, MHNDU has amassed a timeless portfolio, specialising in developments ranging from bespoke houses and multi-residential projects to large scale urban renewal projects.

These projects are characterised by their confident, modernist statements tempered with an intimate knowledge of local climate, context, lifestyle and culture.

Carrying a diligence that constantly seeks to enhance the creative and commercial potential of every project, MHNDU has established an enviable reputation based on its unique blend of design sensibilities, technical excellence, commercial acumen. The result is a legacy of creatively diverse, enduring and sustainable buildings.

Project Brief

MHNDU’s Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis Concert Centre proposal was submitted to an international open anonymous competition in 2017. We placed 9th out of 119 entrants. The contest sought concept designs for Kaunas’ new €30m concert centre, a world-class modern venue complete with multi-functional spaces for conferences, congresses and symposia.

Key components of the brief included:

• 2500m2 of concert hall space including a primary and secondary hall;
• 3000m2 of front of house space;
• 5000m2 of back of house functions;
• 9000m2 underground carpark;
• 5000m2 surface carpark;
• 6500m2 of civic space including a public park, outdoor amphitheatre, large civic square and riverside walks.

Project Innovation/Need

Urban public spaces are usually confined to narrow spaces between buildings or plazas in front of civic buildings. Our proposal has reinterpreted this idea and placed the buildings functions high off the ground to take advantage of views towards the new and old town. The negative space forms a covered public plaza and references the historical pitched roofs with sloped soffits that stretch out over the Neman River.

Design Challenge

The greatest challenge we faced was re-establishing the link between the site and the town centre. Our approach was to elevate the main foyer space of the concert hall above ground level, creating a sky-deck with unimpeded views of the Neman River and the old town which would not have been achievable with a more standard ground level foyer space.

Another challenge was referencing the towns predominant brick material palette without directly copying it. To address this we designed an off-form concrete external façade with crushed local brick as aggregate. This established an everlasting connection to its context via the original warm red tones of the local brick.


Sustainable design was a key requirement and integral component to the design of our submission. The building includes several ecological as well as passive and active sustainable elements including:

• The creation of an artificial wetland in the North-Western portion of the site with a tiered bank system. These alternative banks flood periodically at different levels for an ever changing and active water front.
• The introduction of specially selected water plans to help filter and clean the local waterways around the site. Heavy metals and industrial run-off from local factories currently falls into Neman River causing harm to marine life. The newly purified wetlands aims to encourage additional wild life and flora to flourish bringing greater biodiversity to the site as well as bird-watching and foreshore activities to re-activate the site for outdoor activities.
• A geo-exchange labyrinth below the basement to help heat and cool the building. This system takes advantage of the more stable temperature under the earth and reduces the energy burden created by other forms of heating and cooling.
• Recycled bricks to be crushed and used in the buildings concrete aggregate.
• Solar panels
• Natural ventilation
• Building orientation to bring in as much light as possible.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project can be a concept, tender or personal project, i.e. proposed space.
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