Like the historical buildings he lovingly restores, Saulius Mikštas has had a life that is steady, with an unchanging foundation. He still lives in the city where he grew up, experiencing Vilnius during and after the Soviet era. Mikštas joined Forma studio when it was founded in 1991 and now heads it. History is a topic that the proud native keeps returning to, whether to discuss the city’s architectural challenges and changes post WWII—many apartments were cut up to accommodate an influx of people—or to influence the restoration efforts in the city, of which Hotel Pacai is a grand example.
It took us five years from proposal to completion. The building was the residence of the army commander Mykolas Kazimieras Pacas in the 17th century. So this is not “disposable architecture” like all the commercial buildings, shopping malls, and even residential buildings that are rapidly being built today—almost like fast food. There is a lot of research that goes into a historical project: architectural, archaeological, polychromic, structural, and so on. The commander also founded one of the most beautiful churches in Vilnius, St. Peter and Paul Church. The link between the hotel and the church is an important one as the same Italian masters worked on both buildings. Many elements, such as the paintings found in both structures, have the same details. Even in the 17th century, this residence worked like a hotel because important guests stayed here, and they paid for it. That money went to the church building. Some of the illustrious guests were Napoleon Bonaparte, the Russian tzars Peter I and Alexander I, and the King of Poland, Jan Sobieski. The people who were repainting the map of Europe stayed here.
I won an architectural competition and designed the sports arena for the European Basketball championship held in Lithuania in 2011. I used to be a basketball player, so it was exciting to be a part of the championship in this way.
I don’t play anymore because it is a dangerous sport for people over 50 (laughs).
Vilnius is a special city with a rich, historical background. The Old Town is the largest in Eastern Europe. The street structure and buildings are a romantic and poetic influence, you could say.
Maybe it will sound strange, but I really admire General Mannerheim and Winston Churchill. And the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his Fallingwater building. I was lucky enough to visit it. He was one of those geniuses who laid the foundations for contemporary architecture and created a new language for it. His projects are relevant even today, after more than 100 years