Architectural competition for Tallinn’s new main street announcedPublished: 07.01.2016

To mark the Centenary of Estonia, the Estonian Centre of Architecture, the Estonian Association of Architects and the City of Tallinn have announced a call for ideas to create a new, 21st century main street for Tallinn.  

Photo: Paco Ullman

The main street idea competition is the first stage of the project to develop a mobility area between the Old City Harbour and the city centre, with the aim of creating a people-centred and modern urban environment in the heart of Tallinn by unifying the fragmented centre of Tallinn into an integral whole. The entire main street project comprises the stretch of Pärnu maantee in the centre of town and the beginning of Narva maantee in the other direction. Adjacent blocks will also be included in the second stage.

“Today, Tallinn’s de facto main street is a thoroughfare that has been planned for five decades with just one idea in mind – as the number of cars is increasing, pedestrians should make way. Thus, the Old Town has been cut off from central Tallinn by main roads. The best places for lively cafes, street life and just passing time are unused, as pedestrians and bicyclists have no easy and safe access to them,” the manager of the project, chairman of the Estonian Centre of Architecture Raul Järg explained. “However, countless examples can be found from around the world where the domination of cars has been resolutely reversed and a shared urban environment created instead. This has had the effect of enlivening urban culture as well as local trade and services, and of bringing people out of their cars – even in northern climates.”

The experience of world metropolises also shows that giving preference to light traffic and public transport at the expense of car traffic will not result in traffic chaos, as has sometimes been feared. What has, however, increased enormously in these areas is the satisfaction of local inhabitants with the urban environment, and the visiting rates and earnings of local businesses. A model analysis ordered by the Centre of Architecture confirms that it is possible to direct a large part of transit traffic away from the heart of the city without causing major traffic problems.

The core idea for the future main street of Tallinn is based on the concept of shared urban space, which means a more diverse use of urban space, improved opportunities for recreation, more possibilities for walking and cycling, as well as less car traffic and better road safety. “Figuratively speaking,  we want a vibrant heart in the city where people spend time because they want to and not because they have to – as in the case of transit zones,” Järg explained.

The solution for Tallinn’s main street to be found through the idea competition should fit in with the concept of Tallinn as a possible Green Capital of Europe. The whole extent of the main street should have a consistent and recognisable design, which should help to revitalise the streetscape of the area and support service providers. The main street should be a pleasant meeting place and entertainment zone for locals as well as visitors.
The documents required to qualify for and participate in the competition must be submitted by 10 February, and the deadline for entries is 29 March. The conditions of the competition and background materials are available at

There is also more information about the vision of the main street on the Main Street homepage:

The competition is being organised as a partnership between the Estonia 100 architectural programme Great Public Spaces, curated by the Association of Architects, and the development project for a mobility environment between the Old City Harbour and the centre, which is funded jointly by the City of Tallinn and the European Cohesion Fund. Both projects mark the Centenary of Estonia (Estonia 100). The winning entry will be used as a basis for the further design and construction of the main street area. The Tallinn Main Street public space solution will be developed in full or partially by 2020 within the Estonia 100 programme, using funds from the European Cohesion Fund and the City of Tallinn.

The main street project is supported by the Environmental Investment Centre, the Cohesion Fund, the City of Tallinn, the Estonian Centre of Architecture, the Estonian Association of Architects, Port of Tallinn, AS Viru Keskus and many other local businesses.

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