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The best architecture responds to its site, but the thesis project of student Jurgis Gecys takes the notion to its extreme. His vision of three sculptural interventions for his Masters at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna – a skeletal wall, an eroding monolith and a boulder-like lighthouse – wowed jurors with their poetic fusion of architecture and the forces of nature.

Gecys designed the artful structures for the Curonian Spit, a 98-kilometre-long shoal that stretches like a sandy cobweb from Lithuania to Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, enclosing a lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Embedded in each of the three structures is the deep cultural history of the area, a UNESCO Heritage site, which can be traced back five millennia.

The first intervention, Sand House, is a layered and sophisticated vision. It consists of nothing more than a wireframe rising above the beach. Much like the first settlers’ fences, it doesn’t prevent the dunes from moving, but tracks their movement like an early-warning system, perhaps even becoming entirely
buried over time.

Wind House (shown) is the second of the series and also speaks to a sophistication beyond Gecys’ years. The corridor-like concrete monolith is run through with logs – a tactile reference to the spit’s deforestation and reforestation. It’s an elegant design that, over the years, as wind and sand wear away the logs, will leave only the perforated and eroded concrete shell. It’s intriguing that the structure is intended to become a ruin, making the ephemeral nature of human settlement too poignant to ignore.

The most monumental of the three is Lighthouse, which sits half-in, half-out of the Baltic Sea’s churning waves. The angular concrete tower is imagined as a functioning lighthouse that rises into a craggy pillar with just enough room inside for one person to live – a fantastic vision for an inspiring writer’s retreat.

Although there are no plans to build the structures, that’s almost beside the point. More art than architecture, the ambitious project provokes contemplation of the region’s unique geography and its history – true architecture of the mind.

About the designer: Jurgis Gecys currently works at Wolfgang Tschapeller Architectural Office in Vienna, where he has contributed to such projects as the Ho Fine Arts Library of Cornell University in New York.

What the jury said: “It’s fascinating to see a student thinking in terms of their own creation as a future ruin. Rarely do you see a young person thinking at that temporal and physical scale.” – Thomas Woltz

Student: Jurgis Gecys, Austria

School: Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria

Winner: A+ Award for Student Work
2016 AZ Awards Winner: Best A+ Student Work

Jurgis Gecys, a fine arts graduate student in Vienna, envisions stunning sculptural interventions for the Curonian Spit.

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