Outdoor lounge with stunning views of Tallinn Old Town from the roof of Solaris shopping centre and cinema/concert hall complex

Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Solaris Keskus AS
Commission: 2009
Completed: 2010
Surface: 1,000 m2

In the second half of the 2000s, the Soviet era building of political education just across from the Estonian National Opera House was demolished and replaced with the Solaris shopping centre and cinema/concert hall complex. Solaris attracts large numbers of visitors and helps to keep the heart of the city centre beating. The permanent exhibition of the Estonian History Museum features Solaris as an example of the changing nature of sacred places through time: a hundred years ago people usually met in church and after the Second World War, in a Communist Party congress building; nowadays it is the shopping centre that brings the people together.

The roof of the centre is built into a terrace with stunning views of Tallinn’s city centre including the national opera house ‘Estonia’ just across the street, the rooftops of the Old Town and its many church towers. The terrace is divided into a green lounge area and a restaurant and bar area with sofas and tables. The terrace is surrounded by high glass panels, allowing guests to enjoy the view while protecting them from the wind. The central idea of the architectural design involved soft streamlined shapes. The design tries to avoid creating stern spaces, the transitions between the zones are smooth and a lot of greenery is included. The greenery breaks the space into smaller more secluded and intimate spaces.

The terrace and the furniture are made of bare Siberian larch and with a few years it has acquired a pleasant grey tone. Here contemporary form meets natural materials, charmingly ageing over time to complement the concept of Café Komeet where natural ingredients and pure flavours are preferred. Amongst the greenery one can find herbs that the owner of the café Anni Arro has planted for the kitchen to use.

Finding the right plants for roof terraces is a complicated process in Estonia: the winter is long, the soil will freeze through and the wind and rain will create erosion, which reduces the choice of plants that would survive the years considerably. Before the slopes of greenery were installed on the terrace, the architects created an experimental slope on the roof the Fahle building to try out the positioning of the layers of soil, the weight and endurance of the slopes.