The Future is Here: Vilnius Invites Residents to Connect with Another City Through a ‘PORTAL’

Vilnius has built something for those who are tired of pandemic travel restrictions and longing to meet new people from near and faraway countries. A futuristic-looking ‘PORTAL’ has been installed next to Vilnius Train Station, allowing anyone who uses it to make contact in real time with inhabitants of the Polish city of Lublin. A similar PORTAL has been installed in Lublin’s central square.

The PORTAL resembles a virtual circular door and has a large screen and cameras, thanks to which live images can be transmitted between the two cities via the Internet.

Installed on 26 May at Vilnius Train Station Square, the project has been five years in the making. According to its organisers, the PORTAL is supposed to serve as a visual bridge and new wave community accelerator that brings people of different cultures together and encourages them to rethink the meaning of unity.

“Humanity is facing many potentially deadly challenges; be it social polarisation, climate change or economic issues. However, if we look closely, it’s not a lack of brilliant scientists, activists, leaders, knowledge or technology causing these challenges. It’s tribalism, a lack of empathy and a narrow perception of the world, which is often limited to our national borders,” says Benediktas Gylys, President of the Benediktas Gylys Foundation and initiator of the PORTAL idea. “That’s why we’ve decided to bring the PORTAL idea to life – it’s a bridge that unifies and an invitation to rise above prejudices and disagreements that belong to the past. It’s an invitation to rise above the us and them illusion.”

Engineers from the VILNIUS TECH creativity and innovation centre LinkMenų fabrikas built the PORTAL. They chose a circle, a well-known and recognised sci-fi symbol, for the visual ‘bridge‘. Resembling the wheel of time, the PORTAL allows a person to travel and experience reality on the other side of this bridge. According to its creators, the PORTAL’s form, minimal design and aesthetics of also help shape the image of a future city.

“The PORTAL was an impressive and exciting project from the very beginning. From the initial idea to the creation of an interactive bridge connecting cities, it was a complex task that required specific knowledge and technologies. From design and 3D modelling, to digital content development and logistic challenges – a project like this requires a broad and multifunctional team,” says Adas Meskenas, director of LinkMenų fabrikas “Meaningful projects like this one are born when diverse people succeed in working together and achieving synchronicity. And this is just another example of what people who are united can do.”

The PORTAL is not a one-time project, either. The organizers plan to further connect the world using dozens of PORTALS across Europe and around the world in the near future. The aim is to engage communities and encourage a public movement to embrace social experiments, unexpected reactions, as well as the unity of different cultures and their people in the long-run.

The PORTAL is the result of an international project initiated by the Vilnius-based Benediktas Gylys Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Vilnius, the City of Lublin and the Crossroads Centre for Intercultural Creative Initiatives.