Autumn 2017 (91): Shared Space

Jaak-Adam Looveer. Head of the Spatial Design Expert Group 〉 Kaja Pae

City Unfinished 〉 Kalle Komissarov, Toomas Tammis
Tallinn Main Street 〉 Tiit Sild
Data-Driven City 〉 Renee Puusepp
The Sea Subjected to Infrastructure: Asphalt vs Vision 〉 Elo Kiivet

Toomas Paaver. An Ambassador of Public Space 〉 Interviewed by Kaja Pae

Rail Baltica Route. Photo Essey 〉 Paco Ulman
Urban Space at the End of Tunnel 〉 Aet Ader

Tartu: an Ever More Exacting City 〉 Tõnis Arjus
Sindlinahk — Landscape and Landmark 〉 Sille Pihlak, Siim Tuksam
The Hidden Messages of Annelinn 〉 Terje Ong
The Challenges of Street Space 〉 Jarno Laur
From Public Transport to Urban Mobility and a High Quality of Life 〉 Yoko Alender

Algorithmic Law, Infrastrucural Bodies 〉 Ross Exo Adams

The space we share

Infrastructure – including roads, tunnels and railways – forms the most important part of public space in our cities. It determines the structure of the space we share, our relationships and our way of living. This issue of Maja focusses on infrastructure, first and foremost on the architecture of street space. Good architecture creates unity, is capable of solving problems and enables what at first appear to be conflicting interests to be realised. Connections that go unmade in a[n urban] space are like missed opportunities.

It is curious that street space – which is to say our shared space – is shaped solely in most cases as the result of the implementation of technical norms and lowest-bidder tenders. Instead of being the by-product of pragmatic decisions, discussions about public space need input from both users and professionals in a number of fields. The multi-faceted discussion process utilised in the creation of Tallinn’s main street is outlined by Tiit Sild.

In architectural bureaus and schools alike, exciting work is being done in the treatment of public space in the form of visions and studies. In this issue we give the floor to architects: we take a look at how they can contribute to a better street space and how to get involved in the early stages of shaping decisions that affect public space. Elo Kiivet examines the development of seaside visions for Tallinn’s city centre, which at first glance seems rather hit and miss. However, ideas can be identified that have been honed over time, and we take a look at the seaside vision that was completed in spring.

In the course of the construction boom in the 2000s many people made their dreams come true in terms of their own home, but this limited the amount of energy that could be put into dealing with the space between houses and apartment buildings. Now, the quality of the space we share is important to people, and the public have started to expect more than just the bare minimum from local authorities and developers. In towns and cities in Estonia, where the lion’s share of property is privately owned (which is sometimes given as a reason for poor planning), the main land owned by the city is that beneath its streets and roads. This gives local authorities an opportunity to improve public space and guide development – one which, by and large, they have unfortunately failed to make the most of to date. We take a look at developments in Tartu over the last five years, where there has been heated debate about public space but where consistently dealing with these issues has resulted in dialogue between the various interested parties. The first few works have been completed which could be considered a symbiosis between landscape architecture and infrastructure, and more are currently being prepared. As a result of these bold, if at times bitter, processes, Tartu has become the first city to reach an agreement in practice that [landscape] architects are involved in the designing of key infrastructure sites from the very beginning.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that an architect’s work is aimed at people and society. A space that speaks to its user can brighten their day, support them and brings users together. Just as important when it comes to general issues in the planning of infrastructure is well-considered details, which determine how the structure will become local, tangible and shape our experience. Ross Exo Adams provides an overview of the way relationships between the human body and infrastructure have changed throughout history.

Star billing this issue goes to architect Toomas Paaver, whose diversity of focus has led to breakthroughs in the creation of public space. For example, in 2012 – when the designing of streets and roads was still a non-public, technical process – he took the reins in the reshaping of Soo Street, which has gone on to set an example in the designing of street space ever since.

Planning practice in Tallinn and in some surrounding cities in Europe and surprising conclusions that don’t really go together with the ideas that people have had to date are introduced as part of urban studies conducted at the Estonian Academy of Arts by Kalle Komissarov and Toomas Tammis. Renee Puusepp writes about the use of data in evidence-based planning, Aet Ader looks at issues surrounding the proposed Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel and Paco Ulman’s photo essay shows us the planned route of Rail Baltica.

The topics covered in this issue require bigger picture and the need for cooperation between fields. This summer saw establishing of Spatial Design Expert Group to develop national spatial policy. The head of the group, Jaak-Adam Looveer, talks about problems and opportunities in Estonian space creation and planning.

The winter issue of Maja, out in December, will be the follow-up to this issue and focus on the relationship between houses and infrastructure.

Kaja Pae, Editor-in-chief

September, 2017