It was not easy to aim for a better public space and more human-friendly and diverse street space. Creating an aesthetic city space and a functioning whole was an even more elusive task. It was difficult to explain to the mayor back then what I meant by social space. This combination of words probably gave him a different kind of idea, since the Social Democrats were still in opposition back then. And because all of these ideas were from the point of view of those who actually use urban space (in other words those who don’t use cars), many thought they would inhibit progress.
There was a saying in Soviet times that where the railway begins, common sense ends. Looking at the development of infrastructure projects and their particular tendency to become encapsulated in a highly detailed jungle of pipes and wires before much more important issues are resolved, this saying should be paraphrased today as: “Where the designing of infrastructure begins, architecture ends.”
Now, as the process of the rough diamond becoming an alluring (architectural) gem is complete, it is time to explore the fine cuts made to achieve it. We discuss the project through three generic terms: vocabulary – defining the key terms for the building, urban – contextualising it in micro- and macro-scales, and internal – from the interior ambitions to domestic relationships.
DGT’s architects had previously worked in large offices and their attitude in the beginning was that they’re the ones who come here and tell us how things will be. But there’s a different climate here, and for another thing, different laws, and third, different relationships in the field of construction. In France, the architect is always the general contractor, but here the tenets of the Public Procurement Act had to be followed. The position of the architect on the team is different. Furthermore, the engineers for this prestigious showpiece building had been chosen at tender for the lowest cost, and this caused problems of its own.
The renovation of 44 Queen’s Gate Terrace was completed more than a year ago, after which the embassy’s doors were also opened to visitors, whose numbers have risen impressively. A fair testament to high public interest in the building is the fact that on the city’s annual embassy open-doors day, the Estonian Embassy was so popular that the amount of people wishing to tour it exceeded the limited time frame allowed.