Tallinn City Hall

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year: 2009

Status: Competition, II prize

Size: 51,340 m² (total), incl. office, conference, parking, public space

Program: Institutional

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

Credits: Visualization: Küberneetiline Karu, Alver Architects


The main aim of this highly conceptual entry for the new City Hall of Tallinn international competition was to explore and illustrate architecturally the citizens’ relationship with the city government, as well as the hierarchy and structure of representative democracy :

1) the people are on the public square in front of the building.
2) the few chosen by the citizens of the city to be their representatives are in the volume above the square.
3) the office of the city mayor and his assistants is put into a separate volume to the side of the building, observable from the square by the people of the city,
4) the city’s “administrative machine” comprised of different departments and offices is in the back.

While the mayor’s office is logistically and functionally connected to the bureaucratic apparatus in the back, the house of representatives is separated from it, symbolizing its autonomy. Despite the fact that it is just slightly higher than the rest of the building, the house of representatives has stunning views of both the city center, visible from cruise ships and ferries far in the sea. The office spaces in the back are collected into four rational and economical volumes, split by green atriums according to different functions. The city archive and technical spaces not requiring insolation are put underneath.

An individual’s path through the building is structured as a linear procession. One needs to transverse the public space of both the open and covered plazas, and then make their way through the mesh of staircases in the glazed “neck” between the front and the back of the building. This neck serves as the building’s main logistical artery.

The building strives to become the uniting element between the medieval Old Town of Tallinn and the area of rapid development at the sea shore. In order to do this, the project suggests a number of traffic and public space improvements. First, the building provides a large plaza underneath the front volume of the building, which serves as the gate into the building, while simultaneously connecting the “City hall” – Tallinn’s largest concert hall (to the east) to Kultuurikatel – a derelict electricity plant, recently repurposed as a massive cultural hub (to the west). A promenade starting at the City Hall’s entrance, between the Hall and Kultuurikatel connects the city directly to the sea. The proposal also deals with some small nearby streets in order to ease navigation for the city’s visitors.

Despite its compact and rational structure, the building serves as a clear marker of the city government in the city fabric. It also aims to set the tone for the future sea-side real estate developments to the North. Main materials used in the design are differently-textured steel and glass.