Pihlak and Tuksam’s “Sindlinahk” Mies vand der Rohe Award Nomination

Photo by Tõnu Tunnel

The work of architects Sille Pihlak and Siim Tuksam “Sindlinahk” was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award for Contemporary Architecture of the European Union, in the shortlist of 40 works. In the entire history of the award competition, this is only the second time that architects from Estonia have been recognized.


Pihlaku and Tuksam’s work “Sindlinahk” is a light traffic junction on Vaksali street in Tartu, which consists of a bridge and two tunnels and creates a smooth connection between the two districts of Tartu. According to the authors of the work, the overarching idea of ​​the project was to create a soft, winding skin for the urban space, which creates a smooth continuity of movement paths.


“Our goal was to create a building that is user-friendly and creates a high-quality environment. Moving around the city should be both smooth and barrier-free, as well as offering varied experiences. In this way, cognitive distances are shortened and people walk more. I have heard that people come not only to walk through the “Sindlinahk”, but also just to look at it,” Siim Tuksam, architect of the architectural practice PART, was happy about the project completed in 2022.


According to Tuksam, the necessary experience in the traffic junction is created by brick, a building material specific to Southern Estonia, which represents both traditions and craftsmanship. Namely, the building is covered with one hundred thousand strong and concrete shingle-like clinker bricks. According to the analysis of the UV radiation of the sunlight, the stones also change color – warmer tones prevail in the interior of the tunnel, while in the outdoor space a grayish tone becomes predominant, to avoid excessive contrast with the concrete elements and to give the object a holistic effect.


Sille Pihlak cites the continued cooperation with the builders as one of the reasons for the success of “Sindlinahk”, when the project was given the green light by the city of Tartu.


The 40 best architectural works from all over Europe were selected into the shortlist of the awards, which are given out every two years, which guarantees “Sindlinahk” a place in the EUmiesaward catalog and in the traveling exhibition. So far, in the history of Estonia, only Koko architects with their Rotermanni Laudsepatöökoda have reached the top 40 in 2009. The finalists of the final round will be announced in February.

Pihlak, dean of the Faculty of Architecture of EKA on a daily basis, believes that the nomination for the award is a sign for local architects to deal with spatial issues on a wider scale. “The Vaksal bridge and tunnels are a good example of the complete transformation of a very problematic place through high-quality architecture. The need for changes in this place was known a long time ago, because the pains of the bottleneck restricting movement were felt by both the residents of Tartu and the guests. Even if it is only a railway bridge on the surface, it is an example of how architecture makes urban space and infrastructure objects more inclusive and its residents more active. This is one of the main challenges of 21st-century architecture, which we also deal with on a daily basis with students.” 



Architects: Sille Pihlak, Siim Tuksam (PART)

Engineering: Stricto Project

Client: Tartu city

Contractors: Trev-2, Stricto Project

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Posted by Tiina Tammet