Martin Aunin’s work “Lightpark” wins Juhkentali Quarter architectural competition

Real estate company Kapitel, previously known as E.L.L. Real Estate, held an international invited architecture competition to elicit the best solution for Juhkentali Quarter, which includes Estonia’s highest office building. As the winner, the jury unanimously selected architect Martin Aunin’s “Lightpark”, which envisions an interior courtyard in the middle of the building, serving as a public space and, as the name indicates, a light park. The concept is designed by Martin Aunin, Annika Aasmaa, Marti Kahu, Margid Saar and landscape architect Anna-Liisa Unt.

Architect Martin Aunin said the goal was to design the entire quarter as an integral environment, paying just as much attention to the visuals of the high-rise buildings in the city skyline as the architectural details at street level. Also important are technical feasibility, the conformity to nearly zero-energy building requirements and user-friendliness. “The nature of the quarter requires the street space to be sophisticated and minimalist. The surroundings and interior courtyard are designed as a single public space – a light park that draws passers-by in for a closer look. The light park is an attraction that emanates warmth in cold weather, coolness in hot weather and a sense of security in the dark hours, and it functions through changes in the light’s colour temperature and intensity. The ‘lightpark’ is intercut by stripes executed in light-coloured paving stone – illuminated at night – which guide movement. It serves as an echo of the buildings’ façade. The light stripes extend beyond the horizontal level in places, becoming refracted into spatial portals, which creates a level of detail on the street scale that is distinct from the high building forms,” said Aunin.

According to one jury member, architect and expert Ülar Mark, organizing a high-level architecture competition was very important as the visibility of Juhkentali Quarter in Tallinn is dominant and the high buildings make up a separate group of high-rise buildings aside from the Old Town and Maakri Quarter. Mark said all of the entries were strong and well-developed and the developer saw a number of different appropriate solutions that allowed generalizations to be drawn and reach certainty that the one slated for construction was the right one. “The biggest difference between the winning entry and the others was that the higher, 30-storey tower is turned so that the longer side faces the intersection, which makes up a working ensemble with the Olümpia Hotel. Segmenting such large buildings is one of the plusses of the winning entry; the shift in light and dark bulks creates a slenderer profile. The integral and similar approach to all three building forms will benefit the entire area as the Juhkentali-Liivalaia intersection is surrounded by buildings with very different shapes and sizes,” added Mark.

In the winning entry, the three high-rise buildings appear to have been divided in half, thus creating the appearance of six towers. The three external building units are a storey lower and stand distinct from the inside ones in terms of selection of tone for the facade material and thanks to the contrast between light and dark, the towers seem slenderer than they actually are. The building volumes are positioned so as not to be parallel with either each other or the neighbouring buildings, to ensure maximum distance from other buildings, avoid direct views of the facing buildings, keep wind corridors from forming and dampen street noise. The 16-storey office tower is a storey lower on the side facing the old Orthodox church and set back from broad Liivalaia street so as not to block the view of the church. The other side of the quarter is formed by a presentable looking plaza between the highest, 30-storey tower and the Liivalaia-Juhkentali-Lembitu intersection. The nine-storey building is positioned in the more tranquil side of the plot by the park and has its longest side facing south so that the rooms would be full of light.

Besides the interior courtyard located in the middle of the buildings and the roof terrace located on the area between the towers, the public city space will be supplemented with a park to be established by Veski street, the latter being a new thoroughfare to be established during the project. A pedestrian and bike path following the course of the former Härjapea River will pass through the park.

“We are satisfied with the calibre of the entries received and it’s important for us that the creative minds behind the winning entry had a good understanding of our company’s development values. This is a superb architectural solution that is sensitive to the surrounding buildings and cultural heritage and creates a thoroughly conceived, human-centred and high-quality public space. The extraordinary nature and quality of the work is also attested to by the jury’s unanimous decision,” said Kapitel’s development director and management board member Indrek Moorats.

 “This is one of our biggest development projects in the near future, the total investment will be 100 million euros. We are working with the architects to prepare for design development work, which we will start in earnest in spring 2018. Due to the large scale, the building will go up in several phases, the first phase is planned to start in 2020 and completion is slated for 2022, said Moorats.  The multifunctional quarter across from Olümpia Hotel at the intersection of Liivalaia and Juhkentali  streets will have close to 80,000 m² of office, retail and service space, including a number of restaurants, a sports club and parking garage.

Eight architectural design offices were invited to participate in the competition: the SpaceGroup Company (Norway) in collaboration with the Estonian enterprise Novarc Group, the Fletcher Priest Architects (UK) in cooperation with Estonia’s Arhitekt 11, and from Estonia, architect Martin Aunin, Arhitektuuribüroo JVR, Alver Arhitektid, Kadarik Tüür Arhitektid, KOKO Arhitektid and M. Pressi Arhitektuuribüroo. The jury was made up of a Tallinn city representative Jaak-Adam Looveer, independent architects/experts Ülar Mark, Indrek Allmann and Kalle Komissarov and three representatives of the developer. The jury’s work was supported by an energy performance expert, structural engineer, traffic expert and construction cost appraiser.