Tallinn Music and Ballet School

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year: 2011

Status: Competition, promotional prize

Size: 31,292 m²

Program: Educational

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

Credits: 3D visualization – Küberneetiline Karu


The competition for the new joint building of the Tallinn Music and Ballet Schools asked to squeeze a large amount of diverse functions onto a rigidly restricted site. The entry by Alver Architects reflects this complexity by proposing a fragmented set of precisely connected entities, as opposed to a singular “church-like” volume, with separate functions connected logistically through a central internal “street” / atrium, while each having their unique character and shape.

The Music and the Ballet school portions of the building wanted relative independence of functions, while sharing certain common spaces. One could say that the ballet school is defined by a loud show-like experience, while the music school has an innate need for – surprisingly – silence, in order to enable effective exercise by the students. In addition to the exercise spaces themselves, the program for the building was complicated by additional functions, such as:

– large parking area,

– a public concert hall, usable by both the schools themselves and the general public,

– a dormitory for the students,

– a physical exercise facility,

– a cafe,

– a music school for preschool kids, who share virtually nothing with the general student body of the school, but professors.

This complexity of functions is resolved by keeping them relatively separate, and juxtaposing them formally on the site. The parking is kept in a compact volume in the back of the site with the entrance from one of the largest logistic thoroughfares in the city – Liivalaia street. The dormitory is placed on top of parking, and shaped in such a way that the separate rooms are arranged into clusters, looking out onto the courtyards in-between and boasting a beautiful view of the city. The dormitory quarters are somewhat removed from the rest of the school functions, but still directly logistically connected to them. The public functions are placed on the ground level, facing Pärnu street, which serves as the main entrance into the complex. The cluster of pre-school class-rooms also opens onto Pärnu street, staying relatively restricted to the south-west portion of the ground floor of the building. The main exercise spaces, on the other hand, are placed higher up, in order to support the need for silence, light, and privacy of schools’ inner functions.

Probably the most complex portion of the building is the inner “street” / atrium that reconciles the tension between the different functions within the building, while connecting them logistically.

On the outside, the massing of the building is largely defined by the “power” lines from its surroundings, thus again making sure that the building does not turn into a singular independent object, but remains instead a sensitive contextual volume.