PLAY EAST! SUMMER SCHOOL in Vilnius, Lithuania

22 students
30 children
1 school
12 cement bags
2000 bricks
14 days
15 plywood boards
1000 screws

An international summer school to improve the quality of outdoor spaces of public schools in Vilnius, Lithuania
1st-14th September 2016

WHAT: a summer school Design-Build Studio for Lithuanian and German Architecture Students. Task was to create & build in a participatory process together with the children and the teachers of the Virsme Gymnasium in Vilnius a new playground.

The Summer School is part of the program by the German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD “Go East” and financed by the DAAD.


The Summer School proposed by the Faculty of Architecture of the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Lithuania), in cooperation with baladilab (Germany), aimed at creating motivating and inspiring playgrounds in the Virsme Gymnasium in Vilnius. The selected students from Lithuania and Germany worked together with children, teachers, and parents to improve the quality of the schools’ outdoor spaces, designing and implementing together playing elements directly in the courtyard of the school.

There are two aims: on the one hand, the Summer School will give students the possibility to develop their soft skills working in a cross-cultural group getting to know the way of working in the respective universities, to experience participatory planning processes and to realize 1:1 their own designs. On the other hand, the fact of involving children, teachers, and parents in the creative process, from the design to the implementation, will generate a new way to understand their surroundings, developing responsibility and motivating them to initialise further similar activities.

Educational system in Lithuania has experienced great changes after the collapse the soviet regime. The educational paradigm is shifting from classical to more free and liberal, but the schools spatial structure and the quality of spaces remain not essentially improved and hardly conform to the contemporary requirements. The preschool education performs a close interaction of indoor and outdoor educational spaces, and these both kinds of teaching and learning are used simultaneously. But the primary school, that usually operate in the same building (facilities) as the secondary school, have completely lost the opportunity for outdoor education because of the insufficient or even absence of outdoor facilities.

The majority of Vilnius comprehensive schools are built in the soviet period (1945-1990) and about 75% of them are constructed according standardized projects. There are a lot of secondary schools in Vilnius, that perform the primary education, and they have large surrounding areas, which still are not properly designed and poorly used for educational purposes. The growing interest and awareness of the outdoor environment as a valuable complement to traditional classroom-teaching, is the great argument for the improvement of the school grounds.

With our Summer School we target exactly this need, working to realise friendly and inspiring playgrounds in the schoolyards, where children can spend motivating time playing together, relaxing, moving around and learning together.

Moreover, the bi-national team will coach the students together, to expose the students from Vilnius and Germany to diverse way of teaching. The Summer School will take place at the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University to introduce the German students to the architecture curriculum of the faculty.

Cheap, durable, interactive and inspiring playing landscapes
The Summer School aims at building cheap and durable elements for playing, sitting and providing shelter, out of local material. Due to the small scale of the designs, they will be directly implemented by the students and the team on the schoolyard during the workshop.
The executing phase in the schools also involved children, teachers, and parents, to give them the opportunity to directly participate in the achievement of their own ideas.

Working together for a common goal: overcoming barriers and clichés
In mixed groups, Lithuanian and German architecture students coached by the project team, will work together with children and teachers, to find out their wishes, ideas and moreover helping them in understanding the hidden potentialities of their schoolyards. The students will learn to transfer the ideas of the client – the children and teachers – to a site-specific design, involving the client continuously in the process until its implementation.

Addressing both Lithuanian and German students will give the students the chance to get to know the various methods of design approaches of the different architecture schools.

A design-build studio is a design process that involves the students and the team in the whole development of a product, from the first idea through the negotiation with the users until the direct implementation, moving towards the difficulties and compromises that you have to face during the process.

The design and implementation of the schoolyards will be possible thanks to the active participation of the children and teachers. The methodology of the Summer School is based on working together with the children and the teachers from the very beginning: involving them in the entire process has the purpose to encourage them to initiate and continue similar projects, showing on the other hand, that together it is possible to shape and improve the direct environment, and moreover creating an intensive identification with the results, and so producing responsibility for the maintenance of the courtyard.

The fact of involving Lithuanian and German students in coaching a participatory process will expose them to the difficulties of it, making them aware of the positive and negative aspect of such a method.

Core Team

Faculty of Architecture of the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University
– Liutauras Nekrošius, Phd, architect, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, VGTU
– Edita Riaubiené, Phd, architect, Ass. Prof., Architectural Faculty in VGTU
– Indré Ruseckaité, Phd, architect, Ass. Prof., Architectural Faculty in VGTU

– Vittoria Capresi, Phd, architect, baladilab
– Barbara Pampe, architect, baladilab
– Leonie Weber, architect, baladilab
– Carla Schwarz, architect, baladilab

A special thanks to Melanie Kundrot!

The team of students
Anton Greckas; Artūras Čertovas; Aurimas Lenktys; Dewobroto Adhiwignyo; Gabija Rutkūnaitė; Gabija Veronika Turek; Gabrielė Černiavskaja; Gabrielė Liucija Ošikaitė; Gabrielė Mikalauskaitė; Goda Žukaitė; Greta Čerškutė; Justina Tautvydaitė; Karolina Raževičiūtė; Karoline-Sophie Hüttner; Katharina Wittke; Luknė Barčaitė; Marija Jagnieškutė; Miglė Jakubauskaitė; Rola Kramer; Rugilė Palevičiūtė; Santa Korsakaitė; Sophia Buob