1930’s Tenement Houses

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Kalamaja, Pelgulinn, Kassisaba, Uus-Maailm, Veerenni, Tatari, Raua, Kadriorg, etc.


Ott Alver, Martin Siplane


Historic, Landscape and Urban Planning, Residential, Wood


Residential, Kalamaja, Kadriorg, Landscape & urbanism, Wood, Historical, Urban planning, Apartment building, Apartment, 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 center, high limestone or rendered plinth, and two stories with an attic. Meant for workers and lesser intelligentsia, the houses are a local equivalent to European 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 fire safety regulations that demanded a stone or brick staircase. The building of such houses also became faster as the horizontal log system was replaced with vertical double beam system

The houses are usually two story high; several have mansard roofs with additional attic apartments and the basement was used for retail premises. The stones of the brick staircase are often arranged in an artistic pattern, especially in case of the main doorway.

Their appearance expresses the aesthetic ideals of 1930’s middle class – designed by engineers and master builders, the buildings mostly feature details harking back to late Art Nouveau and historicism. One can also find examples where the design is already influenced by the modernist architecture of the period. 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.