Fading appreciation, changing values and demands, associations with troubled pasts, structural decay, rampant property development and other trends can lead to the abandonment, neglect and disappearance of architectural legacy, even that of an entire era. Such was the starting point of the 2012 Estonian contribution to the Venice Architectural Biennale, asking the question ‘How Long is the Life of a Building?’. It explored the abandonment of various modernist buildings from the soviet era in Estonia, showing remarkable and daring designs which were the architectural highlights of the soviet era in Estonia. However, most of them have fallen victim to changing times and struggle with new realities. Failed Architecture also led a research workshop on one of the country’s most well-known architectural icons from late 1970s.
The catalogue of the Estonian contribution in Venice is a broad collection of perspectives dealing with the lifespan of architecture, ranging from topics such as structural decay, the re-appreciation and re-use of formerly neglected architecture, the heritage potential of modernist architecture and the importance of time and life in Japanese (re)building habits, to critique on the production of urban space. The complete catalogue is accessible online.
The focus case study of ‘How Long is the Life of a Building?’ was Tallinn’s Linnahall, an enormous and monumental former concert hall on a prominent location right by the sea. Completed in 1980 for the Moscow Olympics’ regatta as the ‘V.I. Lenin Culture and Sports Palace’ (it never hosted sports events, only major cultural events), it is currently almost completely abandoned apart from being used as a training ground for policemen and narcotic dogs, and it has a helipad for the city’s helicopter connection with Helsinki. Linnahall’s spatial setup and severe decay make it resemble a Mayan ruin from the outside, but its interior still reflects some of the 1980s soviet glory. Photographer Ingel Vaikla captured the anachronistic object in modern-day Tallinn for ‘How Long is the Life of a Building?’ and generously shared the photo essay with Failed Architecture.
All images are courtesy of Ingel Vaikla.