Jun 7, 2015

Modernist Tallinn Architecture

By on Sunday, June 07, 2015

Clean, futuristic lines respectfully superimposed over the noble past: 21st Century Estonian Architecture

Most people would name Finland and Sweden as world-leading countries for modernist architecture and design in general, but the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have developed quite a top-tier roster of impressive buildings as well, which, combined with a long history of architectural innovation (see, for example, the blossoming of Art Nouveau in Riga and Vilnius in the 1910s, or the early adoption of 1920s German constructivism) - added to proud medieval towers and soaring cathedrals - creates unique, highly-sophisticated urban feel; a truly delectable blend of old and new architectural styles.

One look at the gracious, glowing Old City of Tallinn, Estonia, would prove that: scores of recently-constructed modernist, abstract forms are blending in among medieval stones, enhancing the whole and (sometimes not so subtly) adding freshness and vibrancy to Tallinn's urban landscapes.

We start with the former woodcrafters workshop in Rotermanni quarter, as photographed by Marina Aagaard - check out this bold juxtaposition of the old and new:
Before we look at other similar "extreme renovations / preservation of the past", this picture will give you a glimpse of Tallinn as a medieval city: walking its twisty streets, with their wealth of history and inspired architecture, is truly a sublime experience -
A similar approach of "new on top of old" (building on the "shoulders of giants", so to speak) can be clearly seen in Fahle Apartments, designed by KOKO Architects in 2006. This time the base is the original 1926 limestone factory structure:

And another concept still to be approved: the Ulemiste Water Tower by KAOS Architects:

Other geometric concoctions are less apologetic and make much bolder statements (while still very tastefully integrated within older streetscapes and narrow streets). Here is the Aia 4 commercial and apartment building (AB Kosmos, 2009, right image):

Rotermann Quarter (designed by architects Ott Kadarik, Villem Tomiste, Mihkel Tuur) is one the most impressive integrations of modernism within older urban environment, transforming this busy pedestrian area into futuristic work of art:

On the left is the wildly non-conformist Siili 6 apartment building in Tartu (architects Thomas Pucher and Alfred Bramberger, 2008):

And more great projects to come! Check out these winning entries from recent Estonian architecture competitions: Tallinn's new Academy of Arts building (architects: Mikou Design Studio) -

Tallinn City Hall, presented by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group from Denmark together with Adams Kara Taylor of the UK):

And a truly outstanding concept of a bridge (reminiscent of an alien organic life form):

Soviet era brutalism and unabashed futurism aspirations also left their mark on Tallinn: this "concrete spaceship" is 1980 Pirita Top Spa Hotell:

This rather recent modernist hotel comes complete with beautiful Art Nouveau-ish statues:


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