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Accepted Paper:

Reframing Wooden Houses in Vilnius  
Vaiva Aglinskas (CUNY Graduate Center. Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore)

Paper short abstract:

Once perceived as anti-modern, wooden houses are now beginning to be celebrated as sustainable and future-oriented structures in Vilnius, Lithuania. How do residents navigate this shift, and how do research projects and urban policies reframe the houses in contexts of urban and regional inequality?

Paper long abstract:

This paper traces the revaluation of wooden houses that activists, academics, and institutions like the Museum of Urban Wooden Architecture are spearheading in Vilnius, Lithuania. It analyzes the discursive shift that reframes predominantly wooden historical suburbs like the neighborhood of Snipiskes from being interpreted as anachronistic, backward, left-behind to exemplary forebearers of urban sustainability. This reframing comes at a crucial moment when such wooden houses are rapidly disappearing from the cityscape to make way for multi-story newbuild housing. How do the tactics of making-do that have long since been part of the everyday life of disadvantaged residents of wooden houses get repackaged by researchers as exemplars of a sustainable future, and what transformative effect does this have for the resident’s self-perception and subjectivity/personhood/positionality? Once feeling like they got shortchanged during processes of post-Soviet privatization when they gained ownership of housing they had been waiting to be moved out of for decades, thirty years later, residents of these houses are being targeted by municipal and Scandinavian research projects that aim to promote preservation and celebrate these structures as future-oriented sustainable heritage. However, attitudes toward wooden architecture are contextually conditioned and often clash when comparing those in Lithuania and countries like Sweden, Norway, and Finland. How are wooden houses that were once seen as the epitome of provinciality and backwardness, now acting as coordinates of europeanization and ‘nordification’ shaping Lithuania’s future?

Panel P047
Living, leaving and undoing ‘left behindness’
  Session 2