Fahle house, which was designed by KOKO, is one of the characteristic examples of architecture during the recent economic boom in Estonia. It is a building that from an architectural point of view was ambitious, from a real estate development point of view risky, and from the heritage protection point of view controversial and received a lot of attention from the public. Situated at one of the main entrances to Tallinn, between the airport and city centre, Fahle house draws the attention of every passer-by. The building is part of the complex of a former cellulose and paper factory where the most outstanding building is the tall and voluminous boiler house (1926) built from limestone and designed by architect Erich Jacoby.
The reconstructed Fahle house complex also carries several service and business functions, from beauty salons to a restaurant. Symbolically, the main function of the house is to provide residential spaces because based on KOKO’s designs a six-storey section with apartments was added on top of the old boiler house, on the limestone walls.
The interior of the plant had been destroyed by the time reconstruction started and this made it possible to reorganize the internal layout and room division. Offices and service spaces are mainly located in the historical rooms of the plant. Different sized apartments are located inside the new section with a glass facade, on the roof of the former boiler house. The new section is supported by reinforced concrete beams, which have been hidden between the walls of the boiler house and reach down into the subsoil.
The architects tried to preserve and display the historic interior details and the wall and floor surfaces where possible. For example, the hoppers, which were partially preserved, are part of the fourth floor offices and apartments. These hoppers were funnels made from reinforced concrete, which were used to direct wood mass into the gigantic boilers. The boilers were destroyed but their locations are marked using circles on the ceilings and floors.
Located at the gates of Tallinn, Fahle house with its conceptually clear and self-aware yet playful architecture stimulates the desires of the passers-by, encourages them to imagine life in this large green aquarium with the best views in the capital. It is a modern, chic and stylish living environment, which is meant for a self-aware, wealthy, youthful customer, and an environment that supports and cultivates an urban elitist life-style.
Text: Carl-Dag Lige