Rotermann Quarter

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year: 2006

Status: Masterplan (2006). Zoning and building rules (2002)

Size: Site: 15,500m². Proposed development: 34,323m²

Program: Masterplan

Project team: Alver Architects (Andres Alver, Indrek Rünkla); Veljo Kaasik (co-author)


Rotermann Quarter is a historically industrial area in close proximity to downtown Tallinn, currently regenerated and filled with new construction, according to a masterplan prepared by Alver Architects. The area has by now been filled by a number of fine examples of contemporary architecture, with a few major architectural offices of Estonia contributing a piece of their work to the area.

The initial goals during the masterplanning phase were multiple. First, it was important to observe, amplify and modify the unique spatial structure pertaining to the Quarter. Then, the area needed to be re-developed into a dense walkable urban block, with plentiful open public space, and separate spatial peculiarities of the area tied into a consistent network by intermediate indoor public functions.

The starting point for the project was the understanding that Rotermann Quarter was to become a unique dense urban experience, brought to life by a bold symbiosis of the old and the new. The uniqueness would come from its historic building stock; the density – from its adjacency to Downtown Tallinn with its high commercial interest in the area.

The existing spatial structure of Rotermann Quarter has a few unique characteristics:
– density – the existing buildings are places extremely tightly together,
– fragmentation – the area consists of historically different functional entities, which, by being placed closely together, give birth to peculiar in-between spaces,
– multi-layeredness – given the area’s grain-processing roots, most of the buildings have multiple floors, with considerable variances in height and floor numbers. It is also important that different buildings were built at different times with different construction techniques, materials, and aesthetic considerations,
– diversity – the different shapes, sizes and materials of the existing buildings result in diverse in-between spaces,
– consistency – surprisingly, as all the buildings in Rotermann Quarter are unique, the area as a whole has a very consistent character,
– gable ends – one of the important aspects of the area, are the gabled-roof profiles of historic buildings, that in many cases come all the way to the edges of the area, giving it a distinct “saw tooth” pattern, especially in the north and the south.

A massive 2-story subterranean parking garage fills the entire site of the Quarter, except under the valuable existing structures. The area was to be filled with new construction or renovations / additions to existing structures, depending on their conditions and value. The separate additions were provided by invited architectural competitions.

In addition to masterplanning, Alver Architects were invited to provide a concept design for the entire western portion of the Quarter, with two specific building commissions so far: the R-10, and the Gallery building.