Three Schools in Tallinn

Estonian Institute
Epp Lankots
Reaalkool Gustav Adolf Gymnasium Through the ages, buildings have reflected a country's affluence, in terms of both material and spiritual riches. The most obvious expression of power through architecture is naturally in buildings connected with government. During the first Estonian Republic, the young nation's primary concern was to have a parliament building. Thus the first large state funded architectural projectafter regaining independence was the restoration of the same parliament buildings and hall.

During the last decade, private capital has clearly become the most obvious and prevailing source of funding for urban development. A nation with so many different social problems cannot possibly gain public approval by erecting grandiose buildings - the model widely used by totalitarian systems. Investments in education and culture produce symbolic profit which cannot be measured by numbers, but are nontheless an indication of a nation's wealth. A society is mature, however, when private capital, inspired either by a feeling of mission or by a natural necessity, is interested in making similar investments. The past few years have shown that in Estonia, urban development has luckily followed the above-mentioned model.

Rocca al Mare school's layout Although the building that the Estonian public at the moment considers most important and culturally urgent - the new art museum - is yet to be built, the state has initiated a commendable programme of restoring/renovating schoolhouses. Estonia has schoolhouses from many different periods: some centuries old and others built according to standard Soviet designs. Almost all of them are in need of renovation and modernisation. Although the choice may seem a bit unfair, renovation and restoration was first started in schoolhouses that had historical and architectural value in order to give the programme a wider cultural significance.

Gustav Adolf GymnasiumGustav Adolf Gymnasium The Gustav Adolf Secondary School in Tallinn is a schoolhouse with one of the most profound and fascinating 'loads' of cultural history in Estonia. Located in the old part of Tallinn it uses the rooms of the former St. Michael's nunnery of the Cistercian order. The renovation of this building was important not only because this is the oldest secondary school in Estonia (founded in 1631); but also because such renovation opened an opportunity for thoroughly investigating the medieval rooms that dated from the 1280s (the nunnery was established in 1249). The original rooms of the nunnery which have survived, are locataed on the basement and attic floors of the present schoolhouse. The whole complex has been rebuilt several times during the course of centuries, and the restoration project (T-Linnaprojekt, 1997) took into account all the existing layers. The present main building, or the former priest's house, was turned into a complex two-storey late-classical schoolhouse in the 1840s. In the 1860s, the hall built between the walls of the old refectory was given the interior look that has survived until today. In the early 20th century, an Art Nouveau floor was added to the gymnasium, and that was how the building stayed: late-classical in the lower part and Art Nouveau in the upper. During the restoration the historical interiors were fully restored, and a library and computer class added on the attic floor. The successful interior solution was provided by Maile Grünberg who very subtly used the language of pop art. She is encouraging emotions in children via colours, in accordance with the historical interior.

Grand hall of Reaalkool The Realschule is the first building in Tallinn to be specifically designed as a schoolhouse. The author of the project, architect Max Hoeppner, originally came from Tallinn, but worked in Moscow. The pseudo-Renaissance building was completed in 1884 and follows Hoeppner's designs quite precisely. The main facade is more laconic, the northern facade housing the large hall, is far more fanciful, with its pilasters, half-columns and caryatids. General interior design is also quite simple, only the hall abounds in details.

Hall of Rocca al Mare school Renovations completed at the Realschule this year were mostly restorations, like at the Gustav Adolf Secondary School. The rooms needed for the proper functioning of a contemporary school were also finished (computer class and library on the attic floor, video class, etc.). The most valuable part of the school is the great hall that was fully restored. The restorers felt certain reservations only about the original colour which was a dark shade of brown. The original ceramic floor tiles in the corridors had also survived remarkably well. The school plans to build an annexe that, considering the Realschule's location in the heart of the city, must be sensitive to context and have an excellent architectural solution. Quite a funny example of contextual sensitivity can be found in Vilen Künnapu's postmodern design, done fifteen years ago, of an annexe above the present school stadium which included a figure of Atlas making eyes at a caryatid at the house across the street (the present bank and insurance building).

Rocca al Mare school Another of this year's large school project besides restoring the Realschule, was building the newest schoolhouse in Tallinn. The project was designed by the architectural firm of Urbel and Peil in 1999 and the Rocca al Mare school was completed in 2000. The building is by the sea, near a fashionable residential district and is the first schoolhouse built using private capital. The school's founders include people who have become the business elite of Estonia during the ten years of independence. They have secured positions and reputations in the financial world and can well afford to direct their money into education. This educational establishment that aspires to be an elite school, certainly combines traditional and conservative values and a modern environment for learning.This is also emphasised in its architecture. The white functional architecture and style and neo-modernist aesthetics have become a normative feature of good taste for alert Estonian business circles. This is a safe quality but also reflects a certain progressive thinking and intelligence. The building's plan and room distribution is modelled on the classical university campus with its various learning and administrative bodies. The closest example is the complex of the Tallinn Technical University, and also numerous Finnish universities. The Rocca al Mare school's H-shaped ground plan encompasses a gym/pool block, a round main hall complex and four complexes, one for the teachers and three for the school's three different levels. As for spatial functionality, this is without doubt one of the most modern schools in Estonia.

Rocca al Mare school This is hopefully a sign of how many beautiful schoolhouses Estonia will have in the future (just like museums, libraries, art centres), how far we have advanced, and not only materially. Now, in addition to the historical city-centre schools, perhaps attention can also be turned to the standard-designed schoolhouse in the ugly high-rise residential districts. After all, these buildings, erected during the course of modernist grand-scale construction, are also architectural monuments of a kind, and offer architects fascinating material for experimentation.

| Estonian Art 2/00 (8) | Published by the Estonian Institute 2000 | ISSN 1406-5711 (Online) | ISSN 1406-3549 (Printed version) | | tel: (372) 631 43 55 | fax: (372) 631 43 56 |