The shared infrastructure of connected cities

Architecture office PLUSS + Futudesign

The underwater tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki represents connection and freedom of movement between the two cities that have a potential to become an efficient twin city. To realise the potential of the fixed link it is important to think further from a tunnel. An efficient shared transport infrastructure on both sides of the sea as part of the tunnel is essential to connecting the two cities.

So the question is not only the time spent in the tunnel, but the connection time required to access different areas around the city. That leads to the questions of what the shared (public) transport will be like. What kind of architectural form does it have?

Arhitektuuribüroo Pluss and Futudesign dealt with the infrastructure for the merged city. In their vision, they declare that the most logical path would be establishing the passenger terminal in Tammsaare Park or near Viru Keskus shopping centre in the centre, as this is the junction of the city’s main public transport routes. A city centre tunnel location would be convenient and efficient for Tallinners and it would serve the function of a metro. Their fellow city residents arriving from Helsinki would get to where they were going rapidly, as most public institutions, entertainment venues, points of interest, universities and such are located in or around the city centre. A convex form made of limestone in Helsinki and a concave form made of granite in Tallinn would represent the two parts of one whole.

The architects from Arhitektuuribüroo Pluss and Futudesign have observed that all too often we neglect one of four factors that impact transport within a city and on commuter lines: time.

Moreover, the geographic distance factor tends to dominate discussions, and this has a strong impact on the visions that pertain to the Baltic Sea region, Estonia and Tallinn.

Only now, with the biggest strategic project in the current decade (and in terms of influence, in decades to come), Rail Baltic, is there new impetus for the time factor’s potential in the field of transport to become apparent. A sudden increase in the speed of transport connects places we aren’t accustomed to thinking of as a whole, and offers people the possibility to use space in an unusual manner. It’s now time to start getting used to it.

In 2018-2019, the construction of the Rail Baltic high-speed rail link will begin, which will integrate the Baltic states with the space-time network of the Western European capitals.

The architects of Pluss had the honour of winning the international architecture competition for the design of one of two terminal buildings in Estonia. Besides a station building that meets the needs of the infrastructure, we are interested in the new situation related to time and space in the Baltics, along with its impact.

The construction of Rail Baltic will bring the undersea tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki back on to the map. Seen from Europe, Finland is like an island and seen from Finland, Europe extends to Tallinn. Why not get from Helsinki to Tallinn in 20 minutes instead of a two-hour ferry trip?

Furthermore, the time saved will allow an unprecedented synergy to take shape.

We aren’t talking just about the fact that a rapid public transport tunnel will make fast travel possible between Tallinn and Helsinki.

We’re talking about being able to view Tallinn and Helsinki as one big potential with impacts that can be seen inside and outside. It will become a hub in the Baltics, a challenge to St. Petersburg, a rival to Stockholm and a real destination for Rail Baltic.

The integral parts of this regional hub are Rail Baltic, the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel and the new efficient transport network in the Tallinn city region. Separately, none of these elements would have that kind of power (some would even lack vitality) as a united whole.

Shared infrastructure

Shared infrastructure

It is obvious that Helsinki and Tallinn are going to have shared services via fixed link. In this presentation we are focusing in more abstract shared infrastructure and the location it should take.

Time, space, existence. It is vital that Helsinki is the next metro station, not railway station.

China cargo/Northern sea route

Cargo traffic from China through the northern sea route is not a valid scenario since it needs a new vessel type and is totally dependent on Norway’s decision to enlarge Kirkenes Harbour.

Ports are not relevant…

According to our experts, the ports and trains are actually competing in cargo business, so the ports in Estonia and Finland are not the key players when we think about fixed-link infrastructure.

City potential study for Tallinn

An algorithmic study for how the location of the Helsinki-Tallinn fixed-link station would affect the growth potential in the existing city structure.

City potential study for Helsinki

An algorithmic study for how the Helsinki-Tallinn fixed-link station would affect the growth potential in the existing city structure.

Passengers are vital for travel to the most dense and linked junctions in the city centre, while logistic stations are closely linked to the city rings. The proposed location in Männiku takes into account the existing RB route plan.

Granite is the strongest material in the area, even in Estonia and Tallinn, under the limestone. Therefore, as much of the tunnel as possible should be built in this layer.

Travel time should be as short as possible, a maximum of 20 minutes, to keep daily commutes realistic and the idea of Finno-Ugric metropolis alive.


The differences in the two cities are the real value. That’s what maintains tension.


A metro line with two symbolic stops: Helsinki and Tallinn. Greeting the visual concept of the dual city.

Helsinki station

Helsinki station is the aboveground half of the sphere.

Helsinki station

Helsinki station is located in the city centre next to central railway station. This site has best possible connections via public transport and is within walking distance to the commercial centre of Helsinki. The station will be crafted from Estonian limestone.

Tallinn station

Tallinn station is the underground half of the sphere.

Tallinn station

Tallinn station is located on the site of Viru Keskus with excellent public transport connections and an underground passage to old town. The station will be crafted from Finnish granite.