The imposing coastal Patarei sea fortress was originally Tallinn’s main marine fortification complex. It was built in the 1820s as a part of more general defense plans inspired by Prussian defense systems. The complex could hold up to 2,000 people and consisted of a curved gorge building, a caponier and a lunette with living quarters for the officers, an infirmary and soldiers’ barracks.
During the Estonian War of Independence (1918-20) the building was converted into a prison and served as such until 2005. Since then, Patarei has been the subject of numerous redevelopment plans, planning competitions and work- shops. The most promising of these, albeit never actually realised, was perhaps the idea to house the Estonian Academy of Arts. Currently, the building works as a museum with cultural events and parties organised in the courtyard and along the seafront in the summer.
In 2019 the complex was sold to the US Invest group whose aim is to redevelop it into a multifaceted environment with offices, apartments, retail and entertainment premises. The main design partner for the redevelopment project will be the Tallinn based Arhitekt11 architectural bureau. The invited competition for designing the courtyards, glass canopies and the outdoor areas was won by HG Arhitektuur in 2020. Their entry aimed to find new meaning and opportunities in the historic building and to create a harmonious environment. HGA will start designing the courtyards and outdoor areas of the sea fortress in cooperation with the chief designer of the sea fortress Arhitekt 11 and the redevelopment is due to be completed in 2026.
The fortress also includes an exhibition space of some 1,200 square metres in the eastern wing of the complex called “Communism is a Prison”, which introduces the ideology and crimes of communism along with the history of the building.