This is our improved proposal for the new civic center of Tallinn incorporating the comments and criticisms of the jury. Like the old proverb:”success has many fathers”, architecture is the synthesis of a lot of different demands and challenges. The role of the architect is to incorporate and curate all these conditions (and contradictions) in to a coherent whole. Therefore it is ironic that we architects often find ourselves isolated at the essential moment of conception from the crucial dialogue with the clients, the neighbours, the city etc. due to the format of the architectural competition’s demand for anonymity. We therefore see this second phase as the first step of many in our collaboration with the citizens of Tallinn to formulate a desirable vision for this (in all meanings of the word) central node of the city.
Critic and consequence We want to reformulate the project from scratch so this book can be read without its predecessor, but before we begin we want to reiterate the main comments of the jury and our consequent responses. The first exchange in the ongoing design dialogue.
1 Organizational model
Critic: “Jury's comment to organization of city's administrative offices is that it will be demanding to accommodate current organization to that kind of typology. It was pointed out also, that the open office floor plans layout is maybe too literal/linear/formal translation of the concept of 'flat' participatory democracy. And yet the center of building is blocked by more conventional box? Maybe the term 'village' could be used more extensively in organizational model.”
We have attempted to increase the architectural simplicity of the organizational diagram while retaining the urban complexity of the whole. The dedicated buildings tailored to specific departments, have been distilled to their simplest form. Independently each component has a crystal clear and rational layout providing general usability and maximum flexibilty. Collectively they constitute a complex and diverse ensemble. Like a village rather than a building the Public Village is a network of spaces constituting much more than the sum of its parts,
To demonstrate the incredible variety available for each department to change organization, layout or environment we have shown 3 different refurbishments of various organizational extremes.
2 Relation to surrounding context
Critic: “Railway, which is currently running on north side of the competition site, will be most likely removed and that opens the upper area. Jury's suggestion is that it could improve the building, if it would be spread more apart or be less concentrated. If the north part of site would be taken more into use then the administrative building would have more space. Also the raised ground level plateau is blocking neighboring site's - like new cultural factory in west.”
To benefit from the full extent of the site while creating a more porous and airy village of public services, we have turned the Public Village inside out. From a concentric circle to an extraverted network radiating in all directions. A variety of niches allow public life to nest along the town hall’s perimeter. The raised plateau is replaced by an archipelago of paved squares. Flowing under the canopy of public departments above, the complex of squares and gardens create a public space that is both collective and diverse, intimate and generous. Some squares are tilted to integrate auditoria and restaurants above, parking access, delivery and kitchens beneath.
The archipelago of squares create a gradual transition from plaza to park as public space flows through the public village from the square in front of the Linnen Hall to the park towards the sea.
3 Volumetric assembly
Critic: “Dense volumetric assembly creates complex intersections between units (on roof and atriums), which does not always give better spatial quality indoors. Jury was less optimistic about the collision of forms and would like to suggest simplifying the body of building, without losing the general idea.”
Rather than superimposing the volumes into a complex collage, compromising the integrity of each department, we have turned them in to a hinged network of pure squares. The hinged network retains the simplicity of the individual departments while retaining the complexity of the collective composition. Inside: the product of clear organization and rational order. Outside: a diverse and urban experience.
4 Floor area valuation
Critic: “Office areas answer to city’s needs, but parking must be increased by 30%. Connections with surrounding public space must be improved.” The Public Village combines the human scale of the historical city and cultural cauldron with the public generosity of the Linnen Hall. The Public village serves as a pivot for the entire city accommodating the transformation from the park to the sea, from the city to the landscape and from the open public monument to the dense cultural cauldron”
5 Heritage valuation
Critic: “Highest part of the building (tower) exceeds the height limitation- suggestion is to cut the height by third.”
We have accommodated the height of the tower to the recommendations of the masterplan – while retaining the perception of a democratic spire - the public periscope of participatory democracy.
The Public Village
How do you imagine a public institution in a 21st century participatory democracy? How do you create a public symbol without invoking outdated representations of power and authority? How do you create a public meeting space in a rapidly expanding city where the center gravitates in many directions?
Key to the City Tallinn municipality has decided to consolidate its public governance and service entities into a new town hall. The new town hall will be located right to the north of the medieval city centre set within the green ring that wraps around the ancient city walls. Surrounded by the former industry, a Soviet era sports hall, medieval town and modern developments the new town hall occupies a key position in the successful urbanization of the waterfront and offers a unique possibility of linking land and sea, old and new, public space and public institutions. We propose to create a new urban typology that combines the human scale and intimate experience of the medieval townscape, with the public space and municipal symbolism of the modern extension. We propose to create an open and permeable public institution, extending both town centre and public park all the way to the water’s edge.
Gordian Knot The site of the new town hall is the link between the medieval city and the modern waterfront. Overlooking the green belt of park that wraps the city walls it combines all the qualities of the green nature, the blue sea and a central urban location. But the heavy traffic of the inner ring road cuts the town hall from the city centre turning the green belt in to a wall of traffic. In an Alexandrian gesture we propose to untie the Gordian knot of traffic by submerging the ring road underground between city and water, allowing the traffic to surface at a roundabout to the northwest. This provides the town hall with a park front location for the new town square. Pedestrian movement will be able to flow freely between old and new neighborhoods, and the green ring rolls over and beyond the ring road all the way to the Gulf of Finland.
Marketplace The existing town hall in old town is a classic medieval city hall next to a city square. At the heart of the dense city centre it appears as a clearing in a forest of buildings. In the open context of the green belt, the adjacent vast podium of the Linnen Hall and the plazas and parking lots surrounding it, our New Town Hall creates a sense of place in a less defined urban condition. We propose to turn the entire site of the new Tallinn Town Hall into a big open public square connecting all the adjoining urban situations; the Linnen Hall, the Cultural Cauldron, the Green Ring, the medieval town and the modern developments, into one new public space. The public square -half outside, half inside - will contain the municipal restaurant, conference hall, exhibitions and all the citizen services as well as informal meeting spaces in the lounge or under open sky. All the administrative functions are raised above the square allowing the public space to extend freely below the public offices. Generous courtyards and light wells allow abundant daylight to filter through the offices above, bathing the public interior in natural daylight. The canopy of administrative functions offers varying degrees of protection from the elements. In winter the warm interior will be the main public space protected from the cold, in autumn and spring the generous overhangs provide cover from the rain or shelter from the wind, and in summer the plazas and stepped slopes serve as perfect places for informal gatherings and public life. The indoor part of the public square accommodates all the citizen services in a form of public service marketplace where citizens can come and meet the public servants face to face in an informal organization of 5 islets of counters surrounded by more or less intimate meeting areas for a range of city/citizen interface and exchanges. If a citizen has a meeting in one of the public departments above, they simply go to the counter of the respective department and get accompanied to the office of their public official. A general information counter is located under one of the many skylights at the heart of the market place. From here a grand stair ascends through one of the many light wells to the greeting hall of the City Council. The restaurant is open to both the public as well as the public servants. It is connected with a public stair and elevator to a generous roof garden at the top of the town hall, where an outdoor café offers people an unparalleled 360 degree panorama of Tallinn. The public service marketplace reintroduces the Greek agora as an informal meeting place for public debate and interaction between free citizens. A truly public meeting space for the meeting between the public servants and the public.
Village The existing zoning envelope suggests a large urban block dwarfing the Cultural Cauldron and the Medieval Township. Although related in scale to the Linnen Hall its urban character as perimeter block suggests a 19th century European city block structure rather than a 20th century open space plan. So despite its relative normality it seems an alien misfit vis a vis both contexts. So how do you create an urban structure that can relate to the intimate scale and organic structure of the Cultural Cauldron and the Old Town as well as the modern composition of objects in open space suggested by the Linnen Hall. All the administrative offices are hovering above the public service market place. Consisting of the City offices, the City Council and the 11 different departments it needs to be able to operate as a cluster of independent entities as well as one unified workspace. How can you provide each department with an autonomous identity and a point of reference for employees and citizens and at the same time allow them to merge into the integrated institution of a single integrated city hall. We propose to create an administrative village of individual departments. Each department is accommodated in its own dedicated office building. A twelth building, the tower, hosts the City Council and greeting hall. The departments are grouped together to meet the programmatic requirements of adjacencies. The departments are consolidated in a circular village-like cluster, allowing them to perform as a single open office structure as well as 11 independent departments. The departments are rotated making them intersect, hinged on the corners and rotated while still leaving courtyards for daylight and views between them. The many generous openings also provide views to the public service marketplace below as well as the sky above. Most departments have a large window providing panoramic views in all directions. The network circular organization and the many generous openings internally and externally create an office structure with ideal circulation and compactness, abundant daylight, intuitive internal orientation and close relationships with the surrounding urban scenery. All departments are organized on a large open floor with a mezzanine. The sloping sky lit roof creates a generous attic-like atmosphere and the open connection between the floors creates spatial coherence for the entire department. The mezzanines also contain a certain spatial buffer for potential future extensions allowing each department to grow up to 25% within its current envelope. Major organizational flexibility can be further achieved by having departments change “buildings” or even adding new structures to the administrative village, gradually increasing the radius of the circular cluster. The City offices, by far the largest organization is located on an additional floor right below the departments. The city offices inherit the porous structure of the departments above, constituting a continuous floor plate perforated by light and air and surrounded by panoramic views. In this way the city offices have direct connections with the public service marketplace below and the administrative village above. The composite organization of the administrative village provides it with the intimate niches and unexpected spatial experiences familiar from the Old Town of Tallinn. At the same time the compact floor plate and even distribution of daylight and views makes it an ideal modern working place. The circular cluster of individual buildings hovering above the public plaza gives it the autonomy of a public point of reference: One of diversity, openness and transparency fit for a participatory democracy. Public Insight + Political Overview Good governance and participatory democracy is dependent on transparency in both directions. It requires adequate political overview of the problems, demands and desires of the public, as well as public insight into the political processes. The new town hall of Tallinn will provide this two way transparency in a very literal way. The various public departments form a porous canopy above the public service market place allowing both daylight and view to permeate the structure. The public servants won’t be some remote administrators taking decisions behind thick walls, but will be visible in their daily work from all over the market place via the light wells and courtyards. From outside the panoramic windows allow the citizens to see their city at work. In reverse the public servants will be able to look out and into the market place’s making sure that the city and its citizens are never out of sight nor mind.
Democratic Tower The City Council, the heart of the democratic process, is located in the town hall tower visible from the park, the plaza and the podium of the Linnen Hall. The roof of the tower is tilted forming a slender spire. Inside the City Council greeting hall is accessed via the grand stair or elevators directly from the market place, or from the City offices around it. Above the greeting hall, the City Council is located in a generous space illuminated though a large window facing the city. A balcony for press and visitors flanks the space on the level above. The sloping ceiling of the tower is finished in a large reflective material. The mirror ceiling transforms the tower into a huge democratic periscope allowing literal transparency between politicians and public. In ancient times the town hall would have a vaulted ceiling decorated with a sky or frescos of the land and territories under the ruler’s government. In the new town hall of Tallinn the ceiling will be a real (reflected) overview of the city both old and new. Whenever a politician raises his/her glance, he/she will be met with the view of Tallinn’s townscape. In reverse, the citizens, rallying protesters or simply people passing by, will look towards the tower, and within it get an insight into the political work. The circular formation of council members will be reflected in the tilted ceiling, and give the surrounding citizens a sense of assurance that the democracy is busy working for them. In a traditional tower only the king at the top gets to enjoy the great view. The periscope is a form of democratic tower, where even the average Tallinn citizen on the street gets to enjoy the overview from the top. From a distance the silhouette of the town hall tower enters the family of Tallinn’s historical spires including those of the Niguliste Museum-Concert Hall, Toomkirik, Kaarli Kirik, Pühavaimu Kirik, St. Olav Church and the current town hall.