The folk architecture in the area of Kupiškis

Jonas Minkevičius

The present article deals with the folk architecture and its characteristic features in the land of Kupiškis from prehistoric times to mid-20th century.

Two basic periods are described in the article:

1. Prehistoric period: formation of archaic architecture. The basic material is obtained during the investigations of the Kereliai mound (hillfort) (from the 1st-2nd millennia BC to the 9th c.). At that time, defensive type settlements had been formed on the hills, where living house types were of quadrangular plan and wooden pole design with a certain type of porch (lėpis) as well as buildings of that of a round plan.

2. Historical period (from 10th to 20th c.). Scattered and hay-stack settlements and villages of free plan are formed. In mid-16th century, the administration of Grand Duchy of Lithuania performed the Valakas (Volok, Wallach) Reform, when regular street-plot villages were formed. Homesteads and buildings had to be fitted to narrow (50-m wide) plot structure and a road as basic compositional axis. The types of buildings correspond to the rational demands of a valakas-time farm (c. 22 ha). A functional and spatial structure of a homestead is formed by two yards: fair and farm ones. The main and nicest buildings were erected at the road and the fair yard, granaries stood opposite, with cow-houses, stack yards, barns and bathhouses farther away. Villages and homesteads have fruit and flower gardens, crosses, chapel-poles and many trees. All this forms a comfortable environment, with specific microclimate and an ensemble type of architecture. Some production buildings are erected separately, such as smithies, wind and water mills, as well as houses of call and inns.

From mid-19th century, when the serfdom was abolished, especially in 1918, when Lithuania became independent from Russia, the villages were divided into homesteads with their plans changing. The buildings in these homesteads are erected around a wide yard. Living houses and some farm buildings become more modern with less wooden construction, application of new construction materials, such as concrete, bricks, tiles, iron roofing and paint, with less decorations but of traditional scale and vegetation remaining. During the years of Soviet occupation (1940–1941 and 1944–1990) the traditional villages were demolished. Concentrated kolkhoz settlements were being built according to state plans. After the independence of Lithuania was regained (from 1990 m.), the homesteads started to spread again.

3. The folk architecture in the area of Kupiškis has much common with other ethnographic zones in Lithuania, especially in Aukštaitija. It is based on the same functional and creative aesthetic principles, close interaction of nature and architecture, ensemble character, and moderate aesthetic expression, but it is notable for local features especially vivid in some types of living buildings and barns, their decorations and decore tectonics.