Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Memoriam Reval: City Hall


City Hall
Originally uploaded by Flasher T.
I spent Monday wandering around Tallinn, taking pictures of monumental Soviet structures that are still significant. Probably the greatest of these is the City Hall, an enormous bunker of a concert venue and ice rink erected for the 1980 Olympics. Like all these imposing buildings, its footprint is vastly disproportionate to the useful space. Where modern buildings such as the Plaza multiplex manage to fit a surprising amount of function into a seemingly minor volume, these Soviet architectural memorials of gray stone and concrete strive to comprehensively fill up your vista.

You approach the City Hall via a large plaza, and climb a wide stairway, the bunker shape rising to your eyeline as you ascend. The long walk from the stairs to the main entrance - necessitated by the harbour rail line passing underneath - gives you time to take in the expansive projection of the complex. The amphitheater of the main stage is dug into the ground, a massive 6000-seat semicircle. A concrete pier juts out behind the structure, now the home of a Helsinki commuter ferry and a closed heliport.

It is difficult to find the one angle that would convey the brooding dominance of this compound. An amble through its courtyards and back passages leaves you with the impression that it could very easily feature in the next Half-Life or Stalker game.

7 comments:

Giustino said...

Linnahall is just ugly, but Estonians seem to hold it in some regard. Soviet or not Soviet - some buildings are just mistakes.

Wasn't there a plan to turn it into a Tivoli Gardens-inspired tourist trap?

stockholm slender said...

It is certainly an eerie place... Have waited there for boats several times - the edge of the stairs just blends in with the sea, so you get the illusion of a huge drop straight to the sea, somehow impressive actually.

Jens-Olaf said...

I like the parcour- traceur - free run people there (youtube videos I have seen). It seems to be a training compound that perfectly fits for it.

Flasher T said...

I guess it's liked by Estonians because it was designed by Estonians. The exterior walls are largely local stone, and the impression is similar to that of traditional Estonian cartoons (the ones not really intended for children).

It was also a considerable source of pride at the time, I guess (even though I wasn't anywhere near alive at the time). What other town of Tallinn's size, across the USSR, could boast something so grand?

Ray Crowley (publisher) said...

Whenever I walk there or pass the National Library, I wonder if these structures were designed with a dual purpose in mind i.e. defensive military strongholds?

By the way, it also houses Club Pilot. I had the bizzare experience of hearing an Irish reggae band playing there to a rather appreciative Esto-Russian audience.

Giustino said...

It was also a considerable source of pride at the time, I guess (even though I wasn't anywhere near alive at the time). What other town of Tallinn's size, across the USSR, could boast something so grand?

It looks like something you'd find on a State University of New York campus.

Every time I go in there, I feel like I should have sideburns and a polyester suit on.

space_maze said...

I've never understood how Estonians call Linnahall "majestic". Hell, I wouldn't have noticed it if people hadn't pointed it out to me. It just looks like .. an overgrown pier to me. I find it so unnoticable, I find it hard to be offended by it.

AddThis

| More