Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Status: Completed (2009). Competition (1998). Masterplan (1999-2007)
Size: 8,100 m² (total), incl. subterranean parking and museum/exhibition space
Program: Urban Design, Masterplan
Project team: Alver Architects (Andres Alver, Tarmo Laht, Sven Koppel, Toomas Tammis, Indrek Rünkla); Veljo Kaasik, Tiit Trummal (co-authors); Sweco Project (executive architect)
Credits: Photography – Kaido Haagen, Alver Architects
The Liberty Square is situated in the very heart of Tallinn and acts as the main public square of the city. It is a major urban node where the pedestrian-oriented medieval city, the surrounding park belt (former fortifications) and the new city core converge, all laced with major traffic arteries. Despite its central location and a rich heritage as a hay and wood market and formerly a link in the fortification system, for almost half a century the square served as a parking lot. Thus, the main goals for the intervention were to provide a car-free pedestrian-friendly environment while providing a festive main square for the capital of Estonia. The square had to become a platform enabling multiple temporal and programmatic uses, while connecting into the existing city. It needed to provide a platform for urban life in the heart of Tallinn.
As a solution to the given brief, the square becomes a 3-dimensional landscape instead of being a flat vast plot of land. The square consists of a flat ground level polygonal area covering a subterranean parking garage for 200 vehicles, with a vast stair facing south leading to an underpass, which contains a roof-lit museum/exhibition space. The western branch of the square stretches along the bastions to connect the square to the residential areas. The square also includes a roofed bus-stop on its southern edge, which both provides for connectivity of the area within the city, as well as cuts the noise and constant movement of the street from the tranquility of the square. To highlight its legacy, the project included cleaning and restoring the geometry of the original bastion structure, while erasing some 19th century interventions.
In addition to the main architectonic moves, the square gets a lot of its identity from detailing and furniture. The square is clad with 1200 x 3000 mm granite plates, and accentuated by unique over-sized lighting poles. The necessary barriers are made of prefabricated concrete and stand on stainless steel legs, while the furniture is mounted on wheels and integrates greenery as well as seating. The southern stair has double pace for both stepping and for sitting while the the underpass is held up by columns embellished with mushroom-shaped capitals. The cobalt-blue glass wall separating the square from the traffic, also accommodates a multimedia screen designed as an interactive art project.
The new Liberty square was warmly welcomed by the citizens of Tallinn and has become an important “urban stage”, actively used even during the harsh Estonian winters.