On 25 August 2014 at the Centre of Architecture’s Architecture Hub in Tallinn, in cooperation with the Estonian Academy of Arts, State Real Estate Ltd (Riigi Kinnisvara AS) announced the originators of the winning concept in the architecture competition held for the new Estonian Academy of Arts building. The Estonian Academy of Arts, which turns 100 this year, will mark its centennial while still operating out of leased premises this autumn, but according to the plan, students entering the Academy this year will start their last year at school in the new building.

All of the competition entries can be seen from 27 August to 19 September at the Estonian Academy of Arts G-Gallery (the lobby of the building at Estonia pst 7) from Monday to Friday from 9-18 or here.

Of the 10 entries received in the competition, the conceptual solution by Kuu OÜ titled “Linea” was deemed the best (authors: Joel Kopli, Koit Ojaliiv, Juhan Rohtla and Eik Hermann). The cash prize for first place was 15,000 euros.

The aspects praised most by the jury were the logical and efficient solution and its minimalist exterior architecture which is respectful toward the existing built environment. Also singled out for praise was the way the building’s interior courtyard side partially opens into an outdoor space and the fact that the architects had a clear vision of how the sustainable development needs should be factored in.

According to the winning architects, they focused on the needs of future students and ensuring that the building had internal synergy. “We are all Academy of Arts alumni and it’s very important for us that different specialities and disciplines ‘bump’ into each other within the school. We used architectural techniques to encourage such happy collisions as much as possible,” said Ojaliiv.

Estonian Academy of Arts rector Signe Kivi adds: “I’m glad that the winners were graduates of the Academy of Arts who were especially skilled at inserting into their project everything they themselves would have wanted as students – that the building would be open, allow changes, that it wouldn’t be a closed system.”

Second place went to DAGOpen OÜ and Amhold AS’s joint entry entitled “Aletheia” (authors: Jaan Kuusemets, Üllar Ambos, Pille Noole, Kaisa Lasner and Jiannis Lykouras), which the jury said was conceptually and aesthetically the clearest design concept. Some questions were prompted by whether the plans could be realized in that form, however. The cash prize for second place was 10,000 euros.

Salto AB OÜ’s entry, titled “Akadeemia”, took third place (authors: Maarja Kask, Ralf Lõoke, Margus Tamm, Helin Kukk and Martin McLean), which the jury hailed for having one of the stronger urban design solutions, a complex of lightweight-seeming buildings and transparency, while retaining necessary privacy. The main drawback of this entry, according to the jury, was the complicated logistical scheme for moving between the various buildings. The cash prize for first place was 7,000 euros.

In addition, an incentive prize was given to Kadarik Tüür Arhitektid OÜ for “Imaginarium” (authors: Ott Kadarik, Mihkel Tüür, Kadri Tamme, Harri Kaplan, Kristi Tuurmann, Tanel Trepp and Riho Joala); it was praised for the diversity of the common areas and the accentuated solution. An incentive prize also went to Stuudio Tallinn OÜ’s entry bearing the keyword “Edge” (author: Villem Tomiste), which was extolled for its form: the integration of the entire building complex into one integral city block with buildings lining the perimeter. The incentive prize was 4,000 euros.

The jury that convened to adjudicate the plans was made up of the Estonian Academy of Arts (EAA), the Estonian Association of Architects (EAL), the Tallinn Urban Planning Department (TLPA) and State Real Estate Ltd (RKAS) representatives: Timo Aarmaa (RKAS), Ivar Piirsalu (RKAS), Andres Tali (EAA), Toomas Johanson (EAA), Jaak-Adam Looveer (architect, TLPA), Jaak Huimerind (architect, EAL), Tiit Trummal (architect, EAL), Toomas Tammis (architect, EAL), Andres Ojari (architect, EAL), Lylian Meister (alternate member, EAA), Jan Skolimowski (alternate member, architect, EAL). To elicit opinions on various matters, the jury called on experts from the Heritage Board and the Tallinn Cultural Heritage Department.

After the winner of the architecture competition was announced, the second stage of the procurement procedure will be announced – development of the building complex design. To finance the project, it is planned to use the EU structural funds from the coming period and the Estonian Academy of Arts own resources. The greatest part of the Estonian Academy of Arts funding will come from the sale of immovable property in the centre and Old Town of Tallinn, on Gonsiori and Suur-Kloostri Street respectively. A total of three plots will be sold off.

The future Estonian Academy of Arts building will have close to 12,000 square metres of enclosed net space. According to the current schedule, studies can start in the new building in late 2016.



General description of the competition and conclusions of the jury


The objective of the competition was to establish for the Estonian Academy of Arts, in a historical factory building originally designed by E. Habermann, a modern environment for supporting the development of art and culture, synergy of teaching, and inspiring teachers and students – a place where all Academy members would be under one roof. The considerations of the jury encompassed the following:

(1) The functionality and flexibility of the architectural solution and conformity to the needs of the Estonian Academy of Arts. The human-friendliness of the movement trajectories and connections, considering how the different parts of the building are connected to each other and the building to the surrounding urban space.

(2) The prestige of the integral architectural solution and its suitability for a 21st century art academy, the impact of the symbolic value of the solution, its distinctiveness and innovativeness. A sensibility for the existing cultural values and the surrounding environment.

(3) Consideration of the goals of economically expedient construction (construction cost), energy efficiency, costs of future maintenance, number of parking spaces and other practical objectives such as usability of existing structures in design development and construction, taking into account also, among other things, minimization of risks in the procedural and construction process.


“Linea” (first prize)


Jury conclusion: “An entry with a congenially minimalist and milieu-preserving exterior architectural design where the greatest asset is nevertheless the logical and well-functioning floor plan. The strength of the floor plan is that the school’s entrances, common areas and central stairwell will be located in the place originally taken up by parts 1 and 3 of the factory building, and also that the four-storey facade on the Kotzebue Street side – considered valuable – has been preserved in its original state. An architecturally compelling concept is the partial opening of the interior courtyard side of building part 7 into an external area, which improves significantly what is currently perhaps too hermetic and cramped a spatial impression as well as the actual usability. The general approach suggests a clear understanding of the needs of sustainable development.

The entry’s planned intervention into existing buildings is architecturally clear and qualitative from both an urban design and architectural standpoint. The external architectural solution achieves good balance between the facade of the new entrance and the building under heritage protection, which is slated for preservation. The limited amount of design of the main entrance sends a clear signal as to the new content and purpose. The distinctiveness of the specific area in the middle of the existing building complex creates two articulated entrances from both of the streets adjoining the building. It creates good and comprehensible logistical connections between the different parts of the building, brings out the boundaries and principles of both the new and to-be-renovated parts of the buildings, and also makes reference to reasonable use of the interior courtyard on the western side. A questionable part of the work is the location of the public-use library on the upper levels, but this can be relocated to the 1st and 2nd storeys.

The quarter-like structure of the complex is maintained and the unbroken facade is emphasized architecturally. The entrances are all from the same level, but from two streets and the interior courtyard. The first-floor level smoothly joins the lower levels of the various parts of the buildings into a fluid space that offers different opportunities. In front of the main entrance, a covered plaza with southern light exposure is planned; this can sufficiently meet the needs for public space connected to the school. The more detailed solution of the plaza and the relationship between the sloping parts and the entrances raises some questions, but these can be corrected.”


“Aletheia” (second prize)


Jury conclusion: “The entry proposes an intervention into the existing buildings that is minimal and very clear, and this is supported as well by the very high quality visual expressiveness. The facade along Põhja pst with a very clear and striking solution showcases in the ideal manner the architectural city-creating potential that original architect Habermann started. The distinctive looking building shapes on northern side are articulated sensitively into a striking whole. This was certainly the clearest work conceptually and aesthetically. Unfortunately, besides the general praiseworthy principles of the floor plans, the ideological clarity is encumbered by sporadic awkwardness seen here and there. The current plan of the building’s facade solution also remains too much in lockstep with a single conceptual point of departure and raises doubts as to whether it can be realized in this form (structurally and aesthetically speaking) and used in reasonable fashion. Freeing rooms from utilities, and installing full glass walls is also unrealistic. At first glance, the building part 5 seems to be presented as it exists, but actually the proposed solution can only be executed as a new building as the external walls are currently load-bearing slab walls. It would also be wise to leave the existing facade for building part 6, as the necessary lightness and clear distinctness from the former stocking factory would come from the relatively glass-heavy solution of the intermediate part (part 5). For this reason, the building’s facade on the Kotzebue Street side seems more realistic. The interior courtyard’s glass wall solution improves significantly the interior courtyard’s current, massive nature. The integral structure of the complex – a distinct, solid city block – is maintained and the unbroken facade is emphasized architecturally. The entrances are all from one level – from two streets and the interior courtyard. The logistics between building units is not fully conceived, as there are very many horizontal connections, which creates pass-through rooms, which curtails use of the space and cannot be altered later. The locations and solutions of the entrances are good. The use of steps for connecting exterior and interior is nevertheless a bit questionable – the competition’s terms of reference specifically asked for sloping, gradual transitions to be used. Unlike most entries, this one proposed a suitable solution also for the city space across Põhja pst. The competition entry can be developed further if required. At the same time, as the project is fleshed out, there is the danger that the concept will fall by the wayside and the building will become just another building with ordinary architecture.


“Akadeemia” (third prize)


Jury conclusion: “The entry makes clear and comprehensible decisions regarding preservation and demolition of the existing buildings. The joining of the buildings on the eastern side of the plot into a single structure that follows the historical frontage line and the raised plaza in the middle all buildings (other than the guest studios) is a good, and interesting idea from the urban design perspective. The principal shortcoming of the entry is the logistical scheme with the long connecting paths between buildings – a result of the abovementioned segmentation – which is not remedied by the solution for the first storey, which connects the buildings. The plaza’s central building – the gallery – remains separate; it could otherwise be connected to the first-floor public space. A logistical muddle and the intersection between the public and private space are caused by the two separate entrances from the street and from the raised plaza. This is certainly one of the entries with the strongest urban design solution. The complex emanates lightweightness and transparency, yet the essential privacy is also retained. Envisioning the gallery as a separate low building in the place of building part 7 is a well-conceived idea. The demolition of building part 7 is a bold interpretation of the competition terms of reference – as the competition participants were left with the freedom to handle the eastern end of the unit as they wished and the key parts – shelter and building part along the property line – have been preserved, this must be considered in line with the terms of reference. The solution for the plaza located at the second-floor level along with the new public entrance on the school grounds also succeed. The compact design of the main building is quite thoughtful and rational but rather hard to realize, both structurally and from the standpoint of heritage conservation requirements. The proposed glass facade solutions seem too aggressive and excessively ornate. The guest studios were not called for in the programme but by its nature, the space is acceptable as a reserve area. The entry is enhanced by the integral urban structure – it is like a quarter unto itself, although it does break up the street frontage in parts, in particular on the Kotzebue Street side. The open city plaza is sufficiently closed on the Põhja pst side that it does not excessively harm the existing, imposing frontage along this thoroughfare. The entry restores the boundaries of the historical quarter, which is a good solution. It is one of the few entries that is able to add an urban accent to the new Estonian Academy of Arts building. The public space is functional, takes into account exposure to the arc of the sun and is multifaceted. Maybe there are disproportionally few lobby areas compared to the outside common areas. Both the exterior and interior are creative and uninhibited.”


“Imaginarium” (incentive prize)


Jury conclusion: “A solution with a prestigious looking interior courtyard on the Põhja pst side where the school’s main entrance along with open auditorium are found together – the interior courtyard is perhaps even too formal and unexpected. The positioning of the main vestibule under the open interior courtyard open on the second-floor level is congenial and ensures good connections between all parts of the building. The planning schemes on the second floor with relatively narrow central hallways are not as compelling – the spatial impact is oppressive and can be disorienting for navigation. The presentation of excessively active facade solutions given the spatial complexity is also problematic. Ultimately, they will start to dominate the former stocking factory’s modest architecture.

The entry’s major opening in the otherwise sealed perimeter of the frontage on the other sides creates a very clear visual of the entrance to the building and gives the second floor of the school an interior courtyard that is large, well-illuminated and protected against wind. Unfortunately, the school’s internal arrangement does not gibe with the spatial possibilities created and the use of the interior courtyard by the school’s common areas is unexpectedly thin. Another shortcoming is the positioning of the larger areas in common use (amphitheatre style auditorium and cafeteria) on “pedestals” separate from one another in the 1st floor lobby. The ceiling openings in the raised interior courtyard do not go together well with the common areas on the first floor. The abovementioned major break in the frontage line of the perimeter also makes for inconvenient logistics in getting from one part of the school to another.

The integral complex is for the most part preserved but the incision planned on the Põhja pst side is too dominant and spoils the frontage of the complex. A one-storey lobby structure has been designed for the perimeter of the interruption, which when one is passing down the street does preserve the impression of an unbroken line of buildings, but the low height comes from a different building typology, architecturally speaking. As a whole, the architectural solution does not value the existing buildings enough. The diverse and accentuated solution for the public space is the main trump card of this entry.”


“Edge” (incentive prize)


Jury conclusion: “An entry with an intriguing and distinctive architectural solution with a spacious second-floor interior courtyard on the Põhja pst side, framed by a walkway connecting the former stocking factory buildings. The connecting gallery is not the most compelling, however, in light of the building’s functional links. The facades with a consistent architectural idiom are acceptable but perhaps a little too monotonous and, with their total technicism, cancel out the historical architecture. The use of the interior courtyard and the plaza in front of the main entrance is disrupted by the complete opening of the lower level of the interior courtyard to the plaza – there is lack of the usable plaza space. The floor plan is generally functional and acceptable. There is a lack of an entrance from Kotzebue Street.

The integration of the entire complex planned in the entry into one integral quarter with unbroken line of buildings around the perimeter is clear and has high value in the sense of urban design. The interior courtyard raised on to the second floor of the complex and the major extent to which it is opened on the perimeter on the Põhja pst side creates an imposing entrance to the building and, potentially, a pleasant interior courtyard for the school. Unfortunately, a large part of the interior courtyard’s area is cut short to allow light to pass to the service lot on the lower floor. The abovementioned break, several storeys in height, in the frontage creates a logistically inconvenient situation in connecting the different parts of the building, which is not remedied by the floor plans on the first and fifth storeys.

Exciting architecture, but too dominant and powerful. The interior courtyard is functional but not very pedestrian-friendly or functionally flexible. A service lot is also part of this design, which is undoubtedly necessary for the school. The shape and architectural solution of the Kotzebue Street side building is unclear and haphazard.”

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Posted by Solveig Jahnke