Tallinn Seaport

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year: 2014

Status: Invited competition

Size: Site: 34,800m². Proposed development: 128,100m² (total), incl. 40,900m² retail, 36,800m² hotel, 27,400m² office, 6,500m² residential, 16,500m² parking, public square

Program: Masterplan

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


Tallinn is in a continuous desire of access to the sea. Despite being a seaside city, the downtown is cut off from the seashore by a belt of former industrial buildings and the port’s infrastructure. Currently, visitors to Tallinn who arrive by sea step out onto a  deserted wasteland.

The competition site located on the northern artificial peninsula, east of Linnahall, is one of the areas constituting this “wasteland”, and is probably the least connected area in the entire city. Flaneurs and cyclists never make it to the spot, as there is nothing here but frequent unpleasant north-eastern winds. However, this area is situated right next to the main sea gate of Tallinn, and is passed by ca. 9 million visitors a year. In order to be sustainable, the area should be developed as a multifunctional complex, welcoming both visitors and citizens. This goal can be accomplished by doing the following:

– a large multifunctional development that exceeds the “critical mass”,

– exciting and safe public space,

– architecture of highest quality,

– a clear functional and visual connection to the rest of the city.

The proposal is defined by a few major actions:

1) Expanding the currently hardly used, but historically significant Linnahall, situated to the west of the site, into a major conference center;

2) “400 meters of culture” tie the expanded Linnahall to the port, and provide one of the hard lines, defining the development;

3) The path from / to the sea is transformed into a “pearl chain” of alternating public spaces;

4) The view coridor towards the spire of the Oleviste Church – once the tallest building in the world – provides another definitive line;

5) Pulling a straight line from the Admirality basin in the south to the marina in the north, provides a clear visual connection between the downtown and the sea.

These five, combined with site borders and the requested development bulk, define the strategy for developing the competition site. In addition, the proposal makes a few general suggestions aimed at improving the state of the Tallinn sea port area:

1) Filling the gaps along the path from the port to downtown Tallinn by both buildings and public spaces, and providing an attractive “front facade” to the properties open too the sea;

2) Embracing the planned coastal promenade to fascilitate pedestrian and cycle movement through the area;

3) Proposing a single unified terminal for the sea port, which would replace the disparate buildings currently scattered all over the port territory, and provide a clear “gate” to the city;

4) Rerouting the heavy cargo traffic, thus eliminating one of the major obstacles to the city’s sea-ward expansion;

5) Introducing an extension to the existing tram network, with a new line passing right in front of the new port terminal.

The proposal is kept flexible with a number of options for both the program distribution and staging. The fact that it is defined by only a few major control lines also makes it maluable formally.