Lithuanian Radio and Television Centre, otherwise referred to as the Telecentre or LRTC, owns the highest building in the country: the Vilnius Television Tower (326.5 m). Facilities mounted inside and outside the TV Tower transmit radio and TV signals and data for provision of the Internet and other services. Furthermore, the TV Tower is a place for leisure and entertainment, in addition, it witnessed Lithuania’s struggle for freedom.
The construction of the Vilnius TV Tower started in 1974 and the first cubic metre of concrete was poured into the foundation on the 31st of May. The permission for operation was signed by the State Commission on 30 December 1980, and the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic signed off on the project on 30 January 1981.
The Tower was designed by the architect Vladimir Obydov and by the engineers David Basiladze and David Dorman.
The Vilnius TV Tower, including the foundation, weighs between 25,000–30,000 tons, its height is 326.5 m, and the built-up area occupies 3,355 m2. The upper structure of the Tower weighs 3,500 tons. Its metal frame, which weighs 100 tonnes, was assembled on the ground and lifted to the height of 160 m within an hour and a half.
The bearing part of the upper structure, the reinforced concrete cup, is composed of 16 elements, which were encased in concrete at the foot of the Tower and then lifted to the designed height. The walls of the upper structure are thermally insulated and covered with copper sheets. The base of the Tower is made in the form of a circle-shaped foot, 38 m in diameter and 1.5 m thick. The foundation is 8.25 m deep, and it weighs 11,500 tonnes.
The TV Tower is unique not only on the outside. Its volume is almost 53,000 m3. The Tower includes 18 levels, where conference and auxiliary rooms are arranged. Two levels of the bottom and top ring-shaped structures accommodate television and radio equipment. The main communication lines run through the whole body of the Tower. The third level of the lower structure of the Tower contains the television and radio transmitters. The second level accommodates the ventilation and cooling units, and the basement is home to the transformer room.
The Milky Way restaurant
The upper level of the Vilnius TV Tower contains the 80-person restaurant Paukščių takas (the Milky Way), which is an observation deck with a rotating floor. It is the only observation desk in Lithuania installed at such high level (165 m).
The observation deck makes one full rotation in 55 minutes. When the weather is good, the panorama of Vilnius and its suburbs can be seen at a range of 50 kilometres.
As many as 917 stairs lead from the bottom of the Tower to the Milky Way restaurant. Two high-speed lifts reach this level in 45 seconds. The lift can carry 13 people (up to 1 tonne) at a speed of 4 m/s.
There are many people who wish to enjoy the panorama of Vilnius. Around 70-90 thousand Lithuania and foreign tourists visit the restaurant Milky Way every year. During the warm season it manages to receive from 600 to 700 guests in one day.
It is interesting that recently more and more engagements and weddings are celebrated at the Milky Way. Other celebrations, meetings and special events are frequently arranged here as well. In addition, two conference halls (35 and 150 persons) can be rented for that purpose.
The Milky Way offers dishes of the European cuisine and specialty dishes. Here people not only can eat a tasty lunch or dinner, but also enjoy the romantic atmosphere and taste some delicious hot chocolate, a cup of tea or unusual coffee made of oak nuts.
Symbol of Struggle for Independence
The Vilnius TV Tower is also a symbol of the struggle for freedom and independence for the whole Lithuanian nation. The Tower was a witness of the tragic events in the night of 13 January 1991, when the following 12 people were killed at the foot of the Vilnius TV Tower: Loreta Asanavičiūtė, Virginijus Druskis, Darius Gerbutavičius, Rolandas Jankauskas, Rimantas Juknevičius, Algirdas Petras Kavoliukas, Vidas Maciulevičius, Titas Masiulis, Apolinaras Juozas Povilaitis, Ignas Šimulionis, Vytautas Vaitkus, and Vytautas Koncevičius. Three of them were run over by tanks, and the others died from bullet wounds. Half of the victims was younger than 25 years.
The locations where the victims were killed are marked by small granite obelisks near the TV Tower. Trees are planted nearby: oak trees grow in the places were men fell, and a lime tree marks the location where L. Asanavičiūtė was wounded. Several streets of the Karoliniškės district are named after the fallen defenders.
Every year on the 12th of January the procession of the Telecentre employees walks past the places of tragic events, lays flowers at the spots where the defenders fell, and lights candles in their memory. Many people gather at the TV Tower on that day to commemorate those fallen in the fight for freedom of Lithuania. A bonfire is lit in memory of heroes, poetic lines are recited, and sounds of music are heard.
Since 1992 the first floor of the TV Tower holds an exposition in memory of the victims of the 13th of January.
On 15 June 2005 the memorial to commemorate the defenders of the Vilnius TV Tower was opened. It is an 8-metre high bronze sculpture named Sacrifice, which was created by the sculptor Darius Bražiūnas and the architect Artūras Asauskas. The sculpture depicts a woman raising her hands heavenward, standing on a big bell. The stylized figure slightly rises over the ground, and is created in accordance with the style of other freedom statues. The words of the Lithuanian national anthem are engraved at the bottom of the big bell (its diameter is 2.5 m). The bell rings before mass to call people, and serves as the symbol of independence. The monument was constructed by the Lithuanian Radio and Television Centre.
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the day of defenders of freedom of Lithuania, the additional satellite dish Nera, which was given to our country by the Norwegian telecom, was placed near the TV Tower. This antenna in the times of the Soviet aggression was used at the Supreme Soviet Palace to ensure connection with the world.
The historical antennae park
Commemorating the 85th anniversary of the broadcasting of Lithuanian radio programmes, the Telecentre opened the historical antennae park on 13 June 2011 near the TV Tower.
The historical path, which the Telecentre walked over these years, is marked by the three antennae placed in this park: the antenna Dožd for broadcasting radio programmes, horn-type parabolic antenna RPA-2P of radio-relay communication, and the antenna Ladoga for broadcasting TV programmes.
In the nearest future the paths in the antennae park will be put in order, and later there will be more exhibits.
The park established by the Telecentre will be of great use for the youth interested in the evolution of telecommunications, and will undoubtedly become another place of attraction for tourists, who constantly visit the TV Tower of Vilnius. The antennae are interesting not only in the sense of technology, but also in the sense of their impressive design, thus, everybody will find it enjoyable to walk here and take a closer look at the objects.
In the park near the TV Tower there is also the satellite dish Nera, which was given to our country by the Norwegian telecom in 1999. The antenna in the times of the Soviet aggression was used at the Supreme Soviet Palace to ensure connection with the world, and in January 2001, during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the day of defenders of freedom of Lithuania, it became an exhibit for the wide public to see.
Lately the TV Tower of Vilnius has become a place of achieving personal records; it constantly attracts the attention of citizens of Vilnius and guests of the city for implementation of various projects:
On the occasion of the 37th European Basketball Championship taking place in Lithuania from August 31st till September 19th 2011, the basketball hoop once time again was hung on the highest construction of our country – the Vilnius TV Tower. The hoop was installed at the height of 170, the diameter of the rim was 34.7 m, its length was 109 m. The net of 40 m high consisting of 2,560 glowing wires and 545 bulbs was attached to the rim.
On 18 March 2009 one of the most famous B.A.S.E. jumpers Cedric Dumont completed a jump with a parachute from the top of Vilnius TV Tower.
On 19 August 2006, on the first day of the World Men's Basketball Championship in Japan, the TV Tower became the largest lit basketball hoop. The diameter of the rim was 34.7 m, the length of the net was 40 m. As much as 2,560 m of glowing wires was used for that purpose.
On 6 July 2000 to commemorate the day of Independence of Lithuania the largest national flag was hung on the Tower. The weight of the flag was 80 kg, and with ropes – 130 kg, the area of it was 1,215 sq. m.
Since 25 December 1999 the Vilnius TV Tower during the Christmas period turns into a stylized Christmas tree. The modern light installation is made of 32 garlands (the length of one is 170 m), the total number of lights is about 6,000 units, and the weight of the garlands is about 1,339 kg.
On 12 June 1999 during the run up the stairs of the TV Tower organized on the occasion of the Radio Day Petras Pranckūnas was the fastest runner, who completed the distance in 5 min and 3.8 s, running up the evacuation stairs to the restaurant Paukščių takas (Milky Way). He passed 917 steps and rose to the height of 165 m. This height equals the height of 55th floor of the standard residential house. The fast-speed lift covers this height in 45 s.
On 15 February 1999 the national sash made by the folk artist Birutė Janavičienė was lifted on the Vilnius TV Tower, its length was 326 m, and width was 3.5 m.