Case Study Tartu 3

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The case study of Vabaduse Väljak (The Independence Square) in Tallinn by Anne Erik and Triin Orav

Name Vabaduse väljak
Location Tallinn
Country Estonia
Office OÜ Alver Trummal Arhitektid
Client Tallinn City Government
Completion 20th August 2009
Vabaduse v2ljak.jpg
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Core Question 1: In how far does this project reveal your concept of future landscapes?

Life in the city is changing as well as the purpose of different landscapes in it. City squares are a nodal point where people do not walk only one way or another, they form their own routes – they have more opportunities, more freedom to do it. The squares are becoming more important for people to entertain themselves and get positive emotions. It does not mean that the squares lose their usage as markets or gathering places, but emphasis is slowly moving from one to another.

Comments from kassel university:

In this case, we are more concerned with the square itself - which are relatively independent landscape form in shape and structure. For the Square, its own structure is relatively simple. However, such a single structure and spatial characteristics enable people to use it freedom and more selections, which also making the landscape into landscape with diversity.

Comment to work of Tartu from Montevideo:

The Independence Square in Tallinn is a typical example for an urban space with an important history and which needs to connect different parts of the city. As far as society needs a place which represents it, these squares will be part of our future landscape.

Landscape and/or urban context

  • Biogeography, cultural features, overall character, history and dynamics

After the walls of Tallinn bastion were demolished and the dikes were softened in 18th century, the area was at first known as Heinaturg (a Hay Market). In 1875 it became Peetri plats (Peter’s square), where they placed a statue in 1910 for Peter I. In 1922 the government of the Republic of Estonia removed the statue and in 1923 it became the Square of Independence (Vabaduse väljak). Today it is a representative square in Tallinn situated between Jaani church and Harju hill. The area is 2,3 ha big, it’s purpose is to be a representative main square of Tallinn as well as a part of recreational and green zone around the old town of Tallinn. It is opened and available for all the inhabitants of the city, visitors and tourists. Under the square there is a 400-place parking lot.

The architects have designed a square that considers the historical architectural heritage, typology of the ground and future perspectives. The most important reason for building the square is to continue the net of green and recreational areas that are situated in the old bastions of the city wall.

Cultural/social/political context

  • Brief explanation of culture, political economy, legal framework

As a fortress surrounded by a wall Tallinn is a medieval legacy. Tallinn became an industrial city in Czarist Russia in the 20th century, and in 1920 the capital of the Republic of Estonia. The city started to develop behind the city walls and they were demolished. In 2006 when Tallinn could become the Cultural Capital of Europe the creation of a representative city square became more important.

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

  • What are the main structural features?
  • How has it been shaped? Were there any critical decisions?

Plan provides estate connecting ranging between the Vabaduse square Kaarli avenue and bastion wall. An open city square and underground parking will be built on the estate. In addition to the parking below ground there will also be a large commercial area with pedestrian tunnel, which can be accessed from a spacious stairway constructed on Vabaduse square. With constructing the underground parking lot Vabaduse square becomes the State Office Square and the pedestrian area is suitable for the capital. New Square is deflected around the bastion and combines so far scattered urban space elements with cityscape as a whole. Vabaduse Square has no longer very clear boundaries, they are distributed.

Analysis of program/function

  • What are the main functional characteristics?
  • How have they been expressed or incorporated?

So that the space would be perceived the edges are marked with the various architectural elements - high lamp posts, colored glass walls, massive guards ... but they are half-transparent, allowing the simultaneous presence of several different spaces.

Analysis of design/planning process

  • How was the area/project/plan formulated and implemented?
  • Were there any important consultations/collaborations?

The architectural competition to the area has been held a few times before the project that was finally built was chosen. The last competition, that ended in 1998 had given a very good project, but as there was no political will, the project was never put into practice. In 2011 Tallinn is going to be the Cultural Capital of Europe, there was a political will, and in 2006 another competition for designing the square was announced. In 2008 they published the winner and it was OÜ Alver Trummal Arhitektid who had evolved the work that won in 1998. The purpose of the new design was to connect the different important parts around the square and make them cooperative, a new synergy-creating system.

Analysis of use/users

  • How is the area/project/plan used and by whom?
  • Is the use changing? Are there any issues?

The area is used by a lot of citizens, visitors and tourists. The Statue of Liberty that is situated in the Northern part of the square is a popular sight in Tallinn among tourists from Estonia as well as from foreign countries. The square was opened on the 20th August 2009 (that is the re-independence day in Estonia) and since then there has been a lot of actions going on – an extreme sports competition, a street basketball competition, movie nights, a party celebrating the 1st of September and the Independence Day Parade was held there on the 24th February 2010.

Since the Statue of Liberty on the Vabaduse väljak (the Independence square) was opened there has been problems with it (for example some of the glass-panels have been changed a few times) and it has given the statue a bit bad reputation among people.

Core Question 2: What is the role of landscape architecture in this project?

The role of landscape architecture in this project is the purpose of the square and the buildings around it – the square is presenting them (the square connects two very important churches in Estonia). It is possible to describe a square with the buildings that are surrounding it or different views that open to people when they are on it. When it comes to this particular square, Vabaduse väljak, you could say that it has no definite borders as it is situated in the middle of the city, but the architects have tried to give the borders by placing lamp posts to one side and a colorful wall to the other to make the space more obvious and bring it out a bit more. In addition, there are some constructions on the square that match the environment and typology and develop it.

Comments from kassel university:

Cities are where people live together, compared to the rural landscape and the function of the urban landscape is more comprehensive. Just Like the indenpent square, as it provides a positive space, there is no conflict between the function of commerial and the function of people's leisure and entertainment, but there is a good combination.I think this is characteristic of many European cities, as the same time it is just the advantages of City Square in European.

Comment to work of Tartu from Montevideo:

Just in September 2010 a group of architects won the architectural competition for the redesign of our Independence Square in Montevideo. Citizens of Montevideo are now looking at the plans. And many people say: Who did ask us what we wanted? And we ask you, if the problems with the Statue of Liberty in the Square of Tallinn did not happen because people were not consulted before the redesign. Maybe the role of a landscape architect in such a project should consider the public consultation like in the Punta Yeguas Park.

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