National Library of Estonia
June 13–16

Thursday June 14 2018

  • 12.45–14.30
    BUS TOUR: Soviet Mass Housing Estates – Mustamäe and Väike-Õismäe

    Mustamäe (planned 1958–1959, built 1962–1970s) was the first modernist mass housing estate built in Estonia during the Soviet period. It was intended for 60,000 inhabitants and built on an empty sand-covered plot, following the principles of free plan and functional zoning. The entire area consists of nine smaller micro-districts (mikrorayon) with a separate road network, schools, kindergartens and local centres. Mustamäe consists mostly of five- or nine-storey prefabricated panel dwellings that were designed following all-Soviet housing regulations and examples. Väike-Õismäe (planned 1968, built 1973–1984) for 45,000 residents is rather compact, as there are no mikrorayons. The underlying idea behind the planning was that of a circular town based around a central round pond. As an embodiment of urban utopia – the city as a perfect diagram – Väike-Õismäe today literally looks like “a future city from the past”.

  • 12.45–14.30
    BUS TOUR: The Tallinn Seafront and Kalamaja (19–20 Century)

    The Tallinn Seafront is known for its industrial and military complexes built in the 19th and early 20th centuries in order to secure the western part of the Russian Empire. The oldest one is the Patarei fortification complex (1840) that, due to the changed warfare strategy, was never used for its intended purpose and instead served from 1920 to 2002 as a prison. Located next to it are the Seaplane Hangars (by Danish engineering office Christiani & Nielsen, completed 1917) that were the world’s first large-scale reinforced concrete shell structures. The structures were renovated in 2012 and today house the Estonian Maritime Museum. The neighbouring Noblessner Shipyard is one of the three large shipyards in Tallinn that the Russian Empire built in the early 20th century to develop its battle fleet. Right next to the old military harbour area is the Kalamaja district, which was the largest suburb of Tallinn in the 14th century. Most of the dwellings in Kalamaja date from the time of rapid industrial growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, it is one of the best preserved wooden housing areas in Tallinn, with constantly rising real estate prices.

  • 12.45–14.30
    WALKING TOUR: Medieval Town Hall and Square

    The Town Hall Square has been the hub of Tallinn Old Town for the last eight centuries. The Town Hall on its southern side is the oldest surviving structure of its kind in the Baltic countries and Scandinavia. Its building history goes back to the 13th century. In its present form, it was completed in 1404 when Tallinn was a flourishing Hanseatic city. The interior décor and details that date back to different periods include Gothic wooden benches, lunette paintings and carved wooden friezes from the 17th century, as well as delicate but intricate interior design from the 1970s. Another notable building in the square is the Town Hall Pharmacy (first mentioned in 1422), as it is the oldest in Europe that has continually operated in the same premises.

Friday June 15 2018

  • 13.00–15.00
    BUS TOUR: Interwar Modernism in Nõmme, the Garden City

    Nõmme, the former 19th century summerhouse district that was an independent municipality during the interwar years, became a popular area to build modern private villas as well as small apartment houses. During the 1930s, together with a relatively small number of representatives of the wealthy elite, the middle class became the primary group of clients interested in Functionalist architecture. As building in masonry (bricks, limestone, concrete) and steel was still relatively expensive, a large number of Functionalist private dwellings were built of wood.

  • 13.00–15.00
    BUS TOUR: The Pirita Convent (15th C)

    The history of the St. Bridget’s Convent in Tallinn – the Pirita Convent – dates back to the 15th century when Tallinn was at its economic peak. The Convent that operated for over 150 years used to be the largest nunnery in Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia). Being only partly built upon St. Bridget’s rules, the architecture of the convent church displayed local features. The Convent was destroyed in the 1570s. Since the 1970s, extensive excavation and conservation projects have taken place on the premises of the convent. The massive walls of the church, unearthed parts of claustral buildings on both sides of the church and the graveyard have survived. Today, the ensemble of ruins, a popular concert venue in the summer, is managed by the sisters of the Bridgettine Order.

  • 13.00–15.00
    BUS TOUR: Highlights of Soviet Modernism in Tallinn

    After the bombing by the Soviet Air Force in 1944, the new plan for Tallinn was drawn in 1945 and envisioned a new city centre in the Socialist Realist style. Only fragments of the plan were realized, yet there are numerous buildings from that time that demonstrate how Socialist Realism was interpreted in the Estonian context. By the late 1950s the neoclassical principles of design were cast aside and modernism was introduced in the City Centre, in buildings like the library of the Academy of Sciences (1957–1963), the Communist Party Central Committee building (1964–1968) and the “Intourist” hotel Viru (1964–1972) that was provocatively erected in the vicinity of the Old Town. The tour also visits three major post-war public buildings. The Song Festival Stage (architects Alar Kotli, Henno Sepmann, Uno Tölpus, 1957–1960), that represents the famous Estonian tradition of choral song festivals, was designed to accommodate 30,000 singers. The Flower Pavilion (built 1957–1960) by Valve Pormeister is notable for its sensitive approach to the landscape. The Olympic Yachting Centre was the main location for the sailing regatta of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. It is one of the first extensive structures heralding the late-modernist changes in architecture, emphasizing the idea of a building as a complicated system.

  • 13.00–15.00
    WALKING TOUR: Dome Church and 18th/19th Century Dwellings in Toompea

    For centuries, Toompea – or the Upper Old Town – was the stronghold of local nobility which consisted mostly of German and Swedish knights’ families. The most influential of them were buried in the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin or the Dome Church. The stone church was established sometime before 1233 and has been repeatedly rebuilt since. The vaulted main body of the present church dates to the 14th century, while its Baroque tower is an addition from the late 1770s. The interior of the medieval building also belongs to the Baroque era, with the high altar (1696) and the pulpit (1686) made by woodcarver Christian Ackermann. The church is filled with elaborate coats of arms from the 17th to the 20th centuries, as well as burial stones from the 13th to the 18th centuries. In 1684, Toompea suffered the most devastating fire in its history. This and several other fires are the reason why Toompea, with its 18th and 19th century representative dwellings of noble families, looks architecturally different and newer compared to the Lower Old Town.

  • 13.00–15.00
    WALKING TOUR: Toompea Castle and the Estonian Parliament Building (1920–1922)

    The building of the Estonian parliament (architects Eugen Habermann, Herbert Johanson, 1920–1922), constructed on the ruins of the medieval convent in the courtyard of the Toompea castle, was the first major public building in the newly established republic. The eastern wing of Toompea castle is the former provincial government building from the 18th century. The architecturally forward-looking parliament building has simple expressionist detailing in the exterior facade that contrasts with the ultramarine walls and folded yellow ceiling of the main hall.


    NB! Tour participants need to present a valid ID at the entrance of the building.

Saturday June 16 2018

  • 11.45–13.30
    BUS TOUR: Kadriorg Palace (1718-1725) and Park

    The construction of the Kadriorg Palace was started by Tsar Peter the Great of Russia in 1718. It was named Kadriorg (Catharinenthal) in honour of his wife, Catherine I. The palace was designed by the Italian architect Nicola Michetti, and its abundantly decorated main hall is one of the best-known examples of Baroque architecture in Estonia. In the 1930s, the palace was the residence of the Head of State of the Estonian Republic. During that period, extensions to the palace were added, such as the banquet hall and orangery, and many rooms were redecorated. The palace served as the main building of the Art Museum of Estonia from 1946–1991. After thorough restoration works, the palace was re-opened in 2000 as the Kadriorg Art Museum, which displays old Russian and Western European art.

  • 11.45–13.30
    BUS TOUR: The Kopli peninsula and Russian Baltic Shipyard (1913)

    The Russo-Baltic Shipyard (architect Aleksandr Dmitriyev, 1913) on the Kopli peninsula is a remarkable industrial complex of the early 20th century. In addition to immense docks and shipbuilding basins, a number of production buildings, the main building and an extensive factory settlement for the members of management as well as workers was constructed together with a service network (hospital, fire department, police station, church.). In the 1920s and 1930s, efforts were made to turn the workers’ residential area into a contemporary, well-ordered district. Kopli gained a modern community centre and a school. Today, the original, integrally planned structure of the factory settlement is decaying to a great extent.

  • 11.45–13.30
    BUS TOUR: Soviet Postmodernism: Linnahall Concert Hall and the Small Coastal Gate Bastion

    The tour focuses on two different unusual structures – artificial landscapes rather than buildings – built in Tallinn in the late 1970s and 1980s. Both represent the specific features of local postmodern architecture that emerged in contact with Tallinn Old Town. The Linnahall Concert Hall (architects Raine Karp, Riina Altmäe, built 1975–1980) on the seafront was built for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Yachting Regatta in Tallinn. Although monumental in scale, the building was kept low to allow for the views that open from Tallinn bay to the Old Town. The roof of Linnahall functioned as a public space, enabling access to the seafront, which had been a closed area in central Tallinn for most of the Soviet period. The reconstruction (architect Kalle Rõõmus, built 1979–86) of the 17th century Small Coastal Gate Bastion that was demolished in 1867 represents the retrospective face of postmodern architecture. Built for the Tallinn Old Town Housing Authority, the complex contains administrative rooms, as well as workshops and a sports centre. Its inner courtyard with neo-historicist and playful symbols is masked on the outside as a bastion with blind limestone walls and a grass roof.

  • 11.45–13.30
    WALKING TOUR: Three Churches in Tallinn Old Town

    This tour will focus on three churches representing the different periods and social strata in Tallinn Old Town. The Church of the Holy Spirit was first recorded in 1319 and originally founded as part of the neighbouring Holy Spirit Almshouse. The two-aisled church is small compared to other medieval churches in Tallinn, and throughout medieval times it remained the primary church of the common folk. The most noteworthy detail in the exterior is the finely carved clock by Christian Ackermann (1684). The treasures inside include the carved and painted winged altarpiece (1483) by Berndt Notke, the pulpit (1597) and the paintings on the galleries (17th–18th c.).


    St. Olaf’s Church was first recorded in its present location in 1330, and the present shape and size probably date from the 15th century. The interior is significant for the great height of the nave (31 m) and the stellar vaults of the chancel. The historicist interior decoration that followed the old Gothic style dates back to the restoration of 1820–1840, following the fire of 1820 that devastated the church.


    The original building on the site of the present-day Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (1732) was built in the 13th century and was a part of medieval Cistercian St. Michael’s Abbey for nuns that closed in 1629. After the Northern War, the church served as the cathedral of the Russian Orthodox denomination from 1716 until the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in Toompea in 1900. The icon screen – iconostasis – from 1732 by Ivan Zarudny is one of the oldest extant iconostases in the country.


  • 11.45–13.30
    WALKING TOUR: Dwellings in Tallinn Old Town

    Medieval merchants’ dwellings are considered to be representative of Tallinn Old Town. The dwellings changed remarkably after the golden era of the Hanseatic League in 15th century Tallinn. New windows were carved into the pointed gables, and modern colourful details were added and facades remodelled by several wealthy townsmen. The most radical changes were made in the 16th to 18th centuries in the courtyards and in the interior of the dwellings: the living quarters were made wider by adding rooms towards the street and the courtyard, the entire living space became more functional, the rooms became lighter, more comfortable, beautiful and richly furnished. The city was constantly changing through its buildings, even though the street network largely remained the same. The tour focuses on the most notable and well-preserved dwellings of wealthy citizens of Tallinn in the 15th to 18th centuries.