• Co-author: Lauri Laisaar
  • Interior design of the apartments: Hillar Mänd (Sisearhitektuuribüroo Link)
  • Location: Tatari Street 30, Tallinn, Estonia
  • Size: 2350m2
  • Status: completed 2009
  • Construction: OÜ Messiehitus
  • Client: Horch OÜ
  • Photos: Kaido Haagen, Martin Siplane

Positioning a new resident in a historical settlement is a creative challenge for an architect. Should a pastiche be preferred or should contemporary architecture be created based on the environment? The Tatari district is a suburban idyll in the heart of the city. The tone is set by century-old wooden houses interspersed with modern apartment buildings. Through the years, many intellectuals and cultural figures have lived here.

This luxurious apartment building (the average apartment size is more than 90 m2) is in a dialogue with the one of the most iconic buildings of Estonian architectural history – Karl Burman’s Art Nouveau residence at Tatari 21b, which is located across the street. Respecting the architectural pearl, the new building steps back from the street line, thus creating a front yard that provides entry into the underground parking garage and access to the Soviet-era garages located in the backyard.

The dwelling is divided into smaller volumes in order to better accommodate it to the surrounding buildings – two apartment blocks that are displaced in relation to each other, connected by a fully glazed and unheated stairwell-gallery. According to the architect, his goal was not to make references to the past, but to try and interpret the old milieu in a contemporary way – to approach the location contextually. Giving testimony to this is the choice of natural materials for the façade cladding, which alludes to the surrounding history with its “well-worn” appearance. The veneered façade tiles, which suggest wooden shingles, are colour-matched to the rust-red Cor-ten steel sheets on the end walls; the jalousies comprising of oiled wooden battens and concrete treated with iron sulphate that has been sandblasted to create a texture. Most of the apartments have balconies. The ground-floor apartments have access to the terrace garden built on top of the garage. Ultimate privacy is provided by the roof terraces of the apartments on the top floor, which can be accessed through electronically controlled domes-roof windows.