Mark Grimitliht: Curating Shrinking. The Spatial Strategies on the Example of Estonian Small Towns

The spatial planning of shrinking provides small towns with the opportunity for conscious development and a platform for discussing the future. In the past 27 years, all Estonian towns have shrunk by 5-62%. The shrinking may be a planned process valuing the identity of the town. Every small town is unique. In my Master’s thesis, I concentrated on four Estonian small towns (Mõisaküla, Püssi, Kiviõli and Räpina) implementing three stages: intervention, new programme and planning. The intervention is a small-scale realization of an idea, such as an installation, which functions as a test to initiate a dialogue with the residents of the town. The new programme describes the implementation of the idea in a small town, including a new function for a plot by which both the urban landscape and structure undergo changes.

Let us hereby consider Mõisaküla in greater detail. The emergence of the town dates back to the establishment of the narrow-gauge railway between Pärnu and Valga in 1894. The rails of the line have now been taken up. Between 1989-2016, the town’s population decreased by more than 40%. The main housing in the town consists of wooden detached houses that soon after abandonment are rendered uninhabitable. In my scenario, the abandoned buildings should be demolished and burned down as soon as possible. The given demolition could be used, for instance, for firefighter trainings in a burning building. The “exhaustive use” of the buildings may also be related to midsummer celebrations with guests arriving from all over Estonia. As to the new programme, it is important to join the plot with the neighbouring plot, abandon or connect it with agricultural land as quickly and painlessly as possible. In terms of planning, the small town will gradually turn again into a small village between fields with agriculture as its main activity. 

Supervisors: Aet Ader, Katrin Koov, Indrek Rünkla (Estonian Academy of Arts).

Published in Maja’s 2018 winter edition (No 92).