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.