Tallinn City Centre
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.