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How to wake up the sleeping district of Väike-Õismäe?


The Vision Competition of the Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2013 invited architects and urbanists to formulate new ideas for an old ideal. Under the theme 'Recycling Socialism', the idea of the unique Väike-Õismäe area seemed to be outdated and its future unknown. If this Sovjet-era district has turned into a sleeping area, the question arises how to wake up Väike-Õismäe





From above, the city of Tallinn looks like a patchwork of different zones. At its historic core is a walled old-town in which the Toompea hill remains a separate enclave. Surrounded by autonomous districts of wooden houses, Soviet massive housing projects, and post-modern commercial areas, the urban morphology reflects the city’s history as a diary.  Which parts should be preserved, and which parts changed?


Within Tallinn’s urban archipelago, Väike-Õismäe is the ultimate island. The sub-district was designed on the edge of the city as a happy marriage between modernist architecture and socialism. The beauty and stoicism of the circular block-housing district is both striking and disorienting, as its repetition overwhelms the place.  At the core of the concentric plan is a void - the inversion of an island.  It is surrounded by vast space intended as a common ground.  How can this ground be reactivated?


We propose to ‘wake up’ the sleeping neighborhood by recharging the ground level.  Significant aspects of the surrounding area are strategically pulled into Väike-Õismäe, transforming the district from a dedicated residential and institutional zone to a versatile mix of natural habitat, commercial activity, and communal identity. Its new identity is assembled on the original, through the preservation of its architectural integrity and original concept of communal life, but opened up to new uses and interactions.



The surrounding area around Väike-Õismäe is already composed of ‘attractors’ that can be extended into the community. The nearby natural, commercial and cultural patches are pulled directly into Väike-Õismäe’s circle, breaking its autonomy and fostering a new assemblage of attractions for residents and visitors alike.  

Tallinn’s urban archipelago: 1 Väike-Õismäe; 2 Tallinn Zoo; 3 Grassland; 4 Lake; 5 Residential Area; 6 Industrial Area; 7 Woodland; 8 Shopping, sports & entertainment; 9 Open air museum; 10 Tallinn City Border; 11 Sandy Beach1 Väike-Õismäe; 2 Tallinn Zoo; 3 Grassland; 4 Lake; 5 Residential Area; 6 Industrial Area; 7 Woodland; 8 Shopping, sports & entertainment; 9 Open air museum; 10 Tallinn City Border; 11 Sandy Beach

The nearby woodland is extended by concentrating Väike-Õismäe existing trees into the southwest quarter.  A new canal connects Väike-Õismäe’s central pond with the nearby lake. From the Northwest, wild grasslands are pulled into the site allowing the eastern zone to be dedicated to more park-like greenery. The Southeast zone represents the former fame of Väike-Õismäe as an open-air museum and the architecture of buildings and landscape design is manicured according to its original conception. 


Through these changes Väike-Õismäe turns from an indifferent, disorienting circle into several clearly distinguishable zones that give a sense of place and specificity to the neighborhood.

Siteplan: 1 Extended woodlands; 2 Pond connected with lake Harku; 3 Wild grasslands; 4 Extend social activities of local zoo; 5 Preserved open-air museum; 

6 Bridges and stage for cultural events; 7 Vacant school; 8 Green hills of underground parking; 9 Market, urban farm and community gardens; 10 Proposed

connections - simple pedestrian crossings; 11 Site boundary



Väike-Õismäe’s formerly closed circle is physically opened up at the ground level, where residents and visitors alike will find new attractions and facilities within walking distance. What was a monotonous and disorienting ring will become a lively collage of landscape and places. The residents will live next to lush woodlands, wild grasslands, local farmland and an open-air museum which celebrates the history of the place. They will have access to new functions of new commercial spaces which will welcome small businesses, creative studios and co-working spaces that bring a fresh, entrepreneurial spirit to the district.


By freeing the terrain of fences and allowing the natural landscape to flourish, we are rethinking the concept of a common ground for contemporary use to suit the needs of the Väike-Õismäe neighborhood.  The iconic layout and architectural heritage is respected, but strategically opened up for new uses.  Cars are accommodated in submerged parking garages. Through these meaningful interventions at the ground level, Väike-Õismäe will be transformed from void into an assemblage of places for collective interaction and use.



The ground plane of Väike-Õismäe’s residential buildings will be activated by removing the existing facade of the first two levels to introduce open, mixed used spaces, as well as continuous views through the building.  Open for rent, these new spaces welcome local businesses, young companies and new amenities to Väike-Õismäe which will attract a new crowd of people to the neighborhood each day.  While maintaining its architectural heritage, the base of the building becomes an open framework for improvisation. 



The panels removed from the buildings are recycled as the infrastructure for a local market, urban farm and community garden.  The flexibility of their placement in the landscape allows for constant adaptation for different uses.  Väike-Õismäe could become a favored site for festivals and exhibitions which will complement its existing attractions.  



The vacant school building is a site of opportunity for various community activities and uses.  By removing the facades to expose the concrete structure, a new framework for recreational facilities and community events is created.  The flexibility of its industrial structure accommodates temporary uses that allow for constant change and adaptation based on the interests and desires of the Väike-Õismäe community.




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