Viru Square

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year: 1996

Status: Competition

Size: 55,500 m² (addition to existing structure)

Program: Masterplan

Project team: Alver Architects (Andres Alver, Tiit Trummal, Toomas Tammis, Tarmo Laht, Sven Koppel)

Credits: Model – Adolfas Šaulys


“Viru Square has served as one of the focal points of Tallinn throughout the modern history of Estonia. Being a geographic and functional center of Tallinn, different plans were made for it by different regimes, most realized only partially, leaving the Square a fragmented space. Now, on the threshold of the new century and building on its proud status as a center of a newly re-established democracy, the Square is waiting for a major urban intervention.

Sustainable development of a city’s life depends on leaving space open for public debate, reinforcing the young participatory democracy. Such space needs to remain defined only in large strokes, without much fine detail, to allow for it to adjust to the city’s dynamic life, and secure the ability for the different layers of society to express themselves.

With this in mind, we design the Viru Square for an active citizen. As our submission, we propose a multi-faceted, open and pedestrian-friendly city plaza, exposing the different layers and rhythms of city life. Its success will be secured by the interaction of the quickly developing construction and IT industries, together enabling new spatial scenarios.

Different required functions are distributed across the space according to their intensity of use. Public transport and deliveries, along with other “heavy” programs are placed on the street level; parking for private vehicles is placed under ground; peoples’ activities are divided between different upper layers. The conflict arising from the separation of different activities is solved by tilting the entire “plaza” in such a way that its southern edge touches the street, while the northern – rises to fit covered spaces underneath. This spatial maneuver allows it to connect smoothly the different layers and functions on site. Located within the young “Tallinn City”, such a multi-layered tilted urban surface will depict in its very form the cross-section of different lifestyles and rhythms pertaining to city life, serve as a spring board for the new spatial and artistic phenomena, and be a meeting place for the new youth during their “off-the-grid” time.”

Looking back, it is clear that the proposed idea of exposing the different layers of urban life, and juxtaposing them on a single spatial platform was a little far fetched. However, we believe that it is informative for the future design of cities and the goals urban design should have in mind.