1930’s Tenement Houses on Salme and Kalevi streets

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Ott Alver, Martin Siplane


Historical, Residential


Residential, Refurbishment, Kalamaja, Tallinn, Wooden construction

There are more than 500 so-called Tallinn-type houses from the second half of the 1930’s in the city. This is a certain type of wooden house with a symmetrical facade, a stone staircase in the centre, high limestone or rendered plinth, and two storeys with an attic. Meant for workers and lesser intelligentsia, the houses are a local equivalent to Euro- pean cities’ rental blocks. The formal solution was equally determined at the time of construction by an economic recession and the decline of timber prices, coinciding with new fire­safety regulations that demanded a stone or brick staircase. Their appearance expresses the aesthetic ideals of 1930’s middle class – designed by engineers and master builders, the buildings feature details harking back to late Art Nouveau and historicism. Inside, one finds apartments with two­ to three small rooms and very basic conveniences. Yet with their orderly yards and sometimes elaborate facades, the Tallinn-type houses were an upgrade from the slum environment, and render these streets a distinct 1930’s atmosphere.