Harjapea Apartment Building, Tallinn | Жилой дом, Таллин

Feasibility Study, 2018

The 'Tallinna Maja' typology is a foursquare, timber housing type organised by a central communal stair and radial plan of apartments and fireplaces. Each building sits within a distinct plot, equidistant from its neighbours, with single storey store for firewood at the rear. The application of this simple organisational logic within a relatively orthogonal street pattern means that idiosyncratic sites are created whenever the layout adjusts to changes in topography or land ownership. On one such site, considered too small for development and obscured by a local electricity transformer station, our client’s brief (a young family) was for a simple shared ownership apartment building with a small commercial space to the street. All to be completed in a robust and characterful manner, to a low budget.

The building follows a simple logic; a rectangular plan bisected by a top lit stair and thick wall that accommodates a fireplace; each landing, with a long bench and storage, is shared between apartments and has internal windows that let on to it. The second floor, two bed, apartment straddles this space with two, one bedroom apartments below. Each similar half is divided asymmetrically into two bays: one to provide generous living spaces lit by southwest facing oriel windows and the second to accommodate kitchen, dining and bathrooms. These two sets of spaces are separated by glazed doors or sliding screens that allow sociable and flexible methods of occupation without the flawed nature of static, open plan living.

View of the street facing kitchen and dining rooms from the living space with oriel window

The scale of the project, and focus on spatial simplify, is ideally suited to cross laminated timber (CLT) modular construction which is inherently environmentally sustainable, increases the quality and speed of construction over more traditional techniques as well as being financially cost effective. The building envelope, in a nod to the context of traditional ribbed timber cladding, is formed by precast fibre cement panels more commonly used for agricultural or industrial buildings. Articulation and wit is then given to this shed-like language by utilising standard ridge, eaves and gutter elements in an imaginative and unorthodox way.

View across shelving spaces towards the fireplace and shared stairway

Second floor plan

First floor plan

Ground floor plan

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