Tallinn City Centre

Kaleidoscope + Stuudio Tallinn feat. Kaarel Kose

A bipolar-city is a bi-city—one functional system with two centres. Having more than one centre of gravity strongly characterises the identity of the entity, e.g. a bi-city. However, there are several ways to be a bi-city. Bipolarity is one possible realisation of a bi-city. By definition, “polar” means opposite in character or action; to be bipolar, then, is to have two centres pushing each other in opposite directions. A bipolar city is strongly united, yet its poles are opposite in character, giving it a dynamic state of constant flux.1

Polarity is taking: the two competing, closely located cities force each other to specialize more as they unify economically, since within common markets neither has an edge on being on the greener side of the fence.2

How would Tallinn and Helsinki work as connected, but unique, cities? Should the Tallinn city centre move from the seaside (in general), from the old town, from Maakri and Viru streets towards Ülemiste? Does the main transport hub need to become the centre of the city, or could it be loosely connected with the real historic centre?

Stuudio Tallinn and Kaleidoscope focused on outlining a philosophy and vision for Tallinn’s city centre. They studied the wisest ways of connecting the tunnel with the so-called three circles of Tallinn infrastructure. The team recommended a connection that would be fast and efficient, yet appealing and iconic. If the tunnel emerged above ground on Naissaar Island and was connected to the city centre by bridge, rail users could enjoy the sun, sea and famous Tallinn skyline. The city centre is currently sparsely populated and there are many vacant lots, industrial areas and abandoned areas where the city centre has room for growth. They cautioned against sprawling out into peripheral areas.

The project Tallinn City Centre discusses the priorities of the current and future development in Tallinn and its surroundings through an investigation of the identity of the city.

The project questions the drifting of investments away from the actual city centre towards the new terminal area, leaving the truly remarkable quality of Tallinn, the waterfront, underdeveloped and neglected. The project proposes to shift this focus towards the sea.

The fixed link between Helsinki and Tallinn will change the way we perceive both cities as well as affect them with permanent physical changes. Will the twin cities lose some of their uniqueness and become more similar, altering the vibration and the feel of the cities as people start to move swiftly below the sea level?

The strategy for resisting generic development rises from the desire to strengthen the unique identities of each city.

The project group went out to find the contrasting qualities of Tallinn and were inspired in particular by the potential of the shoreline. The long inaccessible stretches of the waterfront, the gigantic Linnahall interrupting the sightlines and the boat harbour with its lack of human scale all crave more attention, planning and development.

The project looks at Tallinn through three partly intersecting circular zones. Innermost, the Old City is the heart of Tallinn. The second circle connects the railway station to the Ülemiste terminal area and encloses the entire city centre. The third circle encloses the whole inner bay area, connecting Viimsi and Naissaar.

A railway stop suggested in Naissaar brings the island closer to the city and opens a view from the train upon arrival to Tallinn’s pride: its beautiful silhouette.

Perhaps Tallinn needs to look into its priorities and grow as a city from the inside and towards the sea, creating an accessible waterfront prosperous for all. The project urges us to find and use the opportunities waiting at the shore areas, for the citizens, tourists and travellers alike.

Today it takes approximately 150 minutes to travel between Helsinki and Tallinn.

With the Talsinki tunnel connection, this travel time could be shortened to 40 minutes!

As a result of the increased connectivity between the cities, the question of the identity of the twin cities becomes increasingly important

n this workshop we explored the identity of Tallinn from the point of view of similarity versus uniqueness between the twin cities.

The initial question is: What does the identity of Tallinn consist of?

Location and future of the city centre

What does the new terminal location mean for the development of the city centre of Tallinn? The investments will focus on the terminal area and contribute to the continuing neglect of the city centre and harbour areas. We propose the question whether the focus is wrong altogether and should instead be directed at developing the waterfront and the functions and qualities within the city centre.

Discovering Tallinn through discussion

We discussed the build-up and structure of the city and the elements defining its identity on a large scale: the old town, the port, the new hipster areas, the beaches around the city, the rail system around the city, the new terminal area as well as the large suburbs where most of the inhabitants live.

Public functions located around the old town and the harbour

To understand the identity of the city, we identified its main public functions.

Areas of development potential

We also mapped potential areas for development in and around the centre. Tallinn has a large waterfront area. The map, however, reveals that the city’s waterfront has a huge potential for improvement.

Waterfront accessibility

Furthermore, the waterfront is not very or at all accessible in the shown areas. Also, there is no collective water transport around the bay.

Discovering areas of interest

The map demonstrates an intention to open up the city towards the sea as well as the mainland. In the future, the railroad could become a connector instead of a divider, linking the Ülemiste area with the harbour.

The three rings of Tallinn

We propose to see Tallinn via three rings: the inner circle is the old town, the outer circle is the new infrastructure connecting Tallinn Bay from Viimsi to Naissaar and Helsinki, and the middle ring is the connector between the harbour and the Ülemiste terminal as well as the connector between the city and its outskirts on the ground level.

The three rings of Tallinn

The three rings of Tallinn overlap and bring the city together around the bay, enhancing the unexplored potential of a marine identity.

The three rings of Tallinn

We set up a method for discovering Tallinn during the workshop, focusing on sites within the three rings. Registration/interacting with space 1. One word and one object from the site 2. Project action for the site

Chosen sites of investigation.

Defining qualities at each site through materiality and texture. The pictures show findings at each site and verbalise the identity of each site.

Interacting with the site to reveal potential – exploration of accessibility through movement. Could the waterfront be turned into a promenade?

. Interacting with the site to reveal potential – exploration through movement. Linnahall has the potential to become an inviting city port with activities for inhabitants and visitors.

Creating a unique city centre

The three rings of Tallinn visualised with different qualities: the old town at the heart, surrounded by the green belt; the second ring connecting Ülemiste to the harbour; and the third ring connecting Tallinn to Helsinki and the rest of the world.

A more accessible Tallinn Bay

Tallinn Bay forms the new marine identity of city, enhanced from the situation today.

Commuting from centre to centre

The future momentum of entering Tallinn will show the beautiful panorama of the city from the train window; having a stop in Naissaar would enable this. The new rail line will give you a new experience of the city which you don’t have today. The elevated railroad enables connecting the city on the ground level to the existing urban fabric; the city expands and becomes more coherent. From Tallinn to Helsinki, you can commute from centre to centre. A railway unifying the city, not dividing it! Arrival from Helsinki with a panorama!

The new accessible promenade activates the waterfront.

Existing buildings can be rehabilitated to provide space for new functions for the public.

The silhouette of Tallinn is widely known to be exceptionally beautiful.

The activated bay contributes to the strong marine identity of Tallinn.