Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year: 2007

Status: Competition, 1 prize

Size: Site: 19ha. Proposed development: 204,530 m²

Program: Masterplan

Project team: Alver Architects (Andres Alver, Tarmo Laht, Indrek Rünkla, Ulla Saar, Sven Koppel)


The competition for the reconstruction of the Noblessner quarter was another example of the typical urban design paradigm pertaining to the end of the XX century: An effort to repurpose a historic industrial area into a multifunctional urban neighbourhood, as it is being integrated into an expanding city.

The area scheduled for redevelopment is located along an attractive sea shore. In the near future house, it will host a major pedestrian / cycle route in Tallinn – the Sea Shore Promenade – on its north side, and a major traffic artery – the “Põhjaväil” – on the south. The area has an important “in-between” status: it is located inbetween the City Center in the east and the Kopli peninsula – a major residential area of Tallinn – in the west, and also inbetween the sea in the north and the historically significant neighbourhood of Kalamaja with its eponymous park in the south. On top of that, the area comes with its own set of challenges: it is cut in half by both an old elevated railway, and then once the Põhjaväil is built – by it too.

To alleviate the negative separating effect of the railway embankment, a new wide underpass, filled on the sides with functional public and commercial spaces, is proposed. The underpass secures an unrestricted passage of people from the Kalamaja park, under the tracks, and to the sea shore, culminating in the old shipbuilding railed square, which is kept free of additional construction, except for the light tribunes on the far north end, which overlook the development and the sea shore promenade passing to the south, bathing in the sun. Keeping the railed square untouched helps preserve the spaciousness of the seafront in the area, while also preserving the sightlines towards the city center and the architecturally significant buildings, such as the historic seaplane hangar, and the planned judicial building.

The existing aesthetically valuable buildings in the area are preserved. The rest of the area is divided into a number of diversely programmed and formed blocks, justified strictly to the same line on the north. For example, Marina City is a residential complex, which is placed right into the water of the bay, providing the growing population of boat owners a unique living experience. The buildings to the east of Marina City are designed as multifunctional complexes, with two-story “urban villas” placed on top of four-story volumes, containing commercial, office, and light industry programs.

With the exception for the small residential houses placed into the triangular park in the south-eastern corner of the area, the development was structured according to a courtyard urban typology to provide diverse inner courtyards for the local residents, while making sure they stayed protected from the unpleasant sea winds.