Tag Archives: Tallinn School architects

City of the Living – City of the Dead

Leonhard Lapin, 1978. MEA 4.18.2

In the 1970s, in order to voice common opinions and organise a number of social-critical exhibitions and undertakings, avant-garde architectural students united to form a group later called the Tallinn School. “Elavate linn – Surnute linn” (“City of the Living – City of the Dead”) is Leonhard Lapin’s satirical take on the construction of characterless mass housing. The author hid several important allegories in the drawing: the words “Väike õhkamine” (“Little Sighing”) stuck between the buildings symbolise the Pruitt-Igoe Modernist housing project in St. Louis, MO, USA (demolished in 1972); while “Autodes matmine” (“Burial in cars”) in the centre of the work references Lapin’s friend Vilen Künnapu (also an architect), who was one of the first members of the Tallinn School to acquire a vehicle. The drawing was displayed at the Library of the Estonian Academy of Science in 1978 among other works of which many were donated to the museum by engineer Reet Lumiste in 1991.


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Dr Spock’s residence

Tiit Kaljundi, architectural competition 1975, perspective drawing 1984, unrealised. MEA K-53

Tiit Kaljundi’s relationship with Soviet Estonia’s official architectural scene was conflicted, as one may have expected from an avant-garde artist. The ruling power saw monotonous mass apartment blocks as a simple opportunity to ease the deficit of dwelling-spaces. For Kaljundi, however, it was a situation that dampened creativity and encouraged a superficial attitude towards the residential environment, to which he responded with a starkly opposite project – the post-modernist villa. The design, which was originally entered in the magazine Japan Architect’s “House for a Superstar” competition in 1975, was dedicated to famous American doctor Benjamin Spock, whose childrearing book was widely read in Estonia at the time. This version was drafted for an exhibition highlighting the “Tallinn School” of architects, which was held in Finland in 1984. Kaljundi’s protest against the Soviet Union’s rigid, anonymous building culture is obvious. By creating an analogy between construction-stages and life-stages, he clearly expresses the opinion that man and architecture are not separable. The house and the concrete-sidewalked property around it symbolised the various stages of life. Kaljundi’s drawing presents the structure from an axonometric perspective, which enables its imagination in a three-dimensional scale on a two-dimensional surface. Text: Sandra Mälk


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