New life in a former industrial quarter

Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Zelluloosi Kinnisvara
Commission: 2014
Size: 70,000 m²

The first paper mill, which was established near Tallinn in 1662 on the Härjapea River as it flowed out of Lake Ülemiste, operated until 1710. In the 18th century, the paper mill was not in continuous use. W.Fr. v. Wistinghausen purchased the old building, which had been used as a milling workshop, in 1824, and started to rebuild it as a factory. This process stalled, however, and the owners changed and the buildings fell into decay.

The current buildings date from the beginning of the 20th century. The first paper factory was built 1908–1910 according to plans by Otto Schott – a long two-storey building with limestone walls supported on steel pillars, a concrete ceiling and an Art Deco facade. Originally the building had an interior street. In 1911–1913, an Art Deco fire station, a carpentry workshop, gatehouse, wall and another paper factory were added to the ensemble. In 1914–15, a presentable main office building was erected with the end facade facing Tartu Road. In 1926, the new cellulose factory (current Fahle House) with six boilers was built according to plans by Erich Jacoby. Together with the Waldhof subsidiary in Pärnu, the Tallinn paper factory provided more than 70% of Russia’s cellulose production prior to the First World War.

The buildings of the cellulose and paper factory were damaged during the Second World War. The reconstructions, extensions and additions have changed the original ensemble. The Tallinn Cellulose and Paper factory operated until it went bankrupt in 1992. Today, only a small part of the quarter has been reconstructed according to contemporary needs. Some of the less valuable buildings have been dismantled, but many are still waiting to be restored. A lot of the old industrial equipment has been scrapped. The unattended parts of buildings continue to decay. Some deep and high rooms in the former industrial buildings are used as entertainment facilities.

The factories that were once built on the outskirts of Tallinn are now located in the town just a few kilometres from the heart of the city. The client wishes to design the Tselluloos quarter as a multifunctional centre between Ülemiste City and Tallinn’s town centre. The concept offers an architectural expression to satisfy this aim.

The solution considers the necessary functions of the entire environment. The concept anticipates the opening of historic facades, the restoration of their original form and the demolition of the less valuable parts of buildings. The historic street from Tartu Road to the boiler house will be opened to structure the volumes of building complexes and to provide natural light for the interiors. The preserved buildings will be used as service and retail spaces. The businesses on the ground and first floors adjacent to street level will create an active street front.

The concept offers six possible large solutions. The resulting urban space is dense as is characteristic of such a centre. Guiding vehicular traffic to the perimeter of the quarter promotes a green solution and people-friendly access. There will be apartments, offices and a hotel in the new buildings. Due to the natural slope, the higher floors offer views of the harbour, city and Lake Ülemiste.

The model for reviving the quarter is similar to that of Fahle House – effective new extensions should create revenue to cover the cost of the restoration of the old buildings.