Põlva Town Square

Location: Põlva, Estonia

Year: 2015

Status: Competition

Size: First stage – 3,000 m²

Program: Urban Design

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



Downtown Põlva is a centerless space. There are a bunch of public buildings and spaces, but they lack any logistical or spatial consistency. Thus, we introduce a new pedestrian axis into downtown Põlva to tie them all together.  The axis starts with a straight bridge at the cultural center on top of the hill and then proceeds past the County Hall, a buss station, and a “lawn” with a myriad of wooden “interventions” towards an arched bridge at Orajõgi river.

Urban ideas

The whole axis need not be built in one titanic effort: it can be split into separate “themes”, which can also define separate construction stages.

Once the County Government has moved into the building of the former music school, the park and the parking lot in front of it will take on a whole new meaning – both will need to be refurbished to become parade squares capable of hosting events, military parades and serve as the central urban public space for Põlva. Between the County Hall building and the new squares, the central axis will start. These developments together will constitute the first phase of the construction of the axis.

From the County Hall, the axis will extend in both directions: a bridge will lead to the Culture Center on top of the hill, and towards the river – a multipurpose wooden landscape of seating, attractions and terraces will provide plenty of recreational opportunities for both adults and kids alike. For the purpose of activating the downtown, the bus station will be moved downtown from its current location on the outskirts of town. On towards the river, the axis will pass a “lawn” – a multifunctional open public space, framed by trees, and capable of hosting fares, concerts, St. John’s Day celebrations, and so on. Onward from there towards the river, the extension of the current market grounds will be populated by new stalls for farmers. A new sports ground with an adjacent marina will also be constructed, providing for better interaction between the town and the river.  The axis will accommodate a number of children’s facilities and will also become a promenade, of which Põlva currently has none.

Architectural ideas

The entire axis could serve as a massive ad for the renowned Põlva timber mills. The straight bridge spanning across Võru St. would take shape of an elegant arched glulam timber bridge culminating in a staircase and a lift for the disabled. The plates stepping down the slope next to the County Hall would accommodate special street lights while the seating and the fountain right in front of the County Hall will lend the building an air of dignity. This is where wood would meet steel. Terraces are open for interpretation by designers and architects, while the tall light posts near the “lawn” and along the edge of the main square could be designed uniquely for Põlva as well. The frame next to the market could accommodate both sporting and kid’s activities, while potentially serving as an extension of market’s stalls. An elegant arched bridge will mark the end of downtown.