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Competition: Tallinn department store, Estonia

The Estonian Association of Architects has launched an international contest to overhaul a landmark department store in the heart of Tallinn (Deadline: 21 September)

The competition seeks ‘professional, open-minded and grand’ proposals for a new 57,000m² retail complex two-and-a-half times larger than the present city-centre building, known as the Tallinn Department Store or Tallinna Kaubamaja.

Backed by retail giant Tallinna Kaubamaja Group, the project will expand the flagship shopping centre, which first opened in the 1960s and was expanded 13 years ago to include the neighbouring Viru Centre.

Tallinna Kaubamaja department store

Tallinna Kaubamaja department store

Source: Image by Nosser

Tallinna Kaubamaja department store

Commenting on the contest launch, Kaubamaja director Erkki Laugus said: ‘Together with the best of architects, we would like to create a modern department store which will make us feel proud as much as it does the visitors of Tallinn.

‘We wish to fill the new house with many more items and events than it is possible to do in the present building, and to take a strong position among the best known department stores in northern Europe with the goal of becoming the best one at some time.’

Known as Reval from the 13th to early 20th centuries, Tallinn is the largest city  in Estonia and home to around one-third of the country’s population. The city’s old town became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997 and today the wider settlement is home to many start-up companies specialising in IT and finance.

Prominent contemporary buildings within the city centre include the competition-winning Kumu art museum designed by Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori, the Rotermann Grain Elevator by KOKO architects, and the Rotermann Quarter by Ott Kadarik, Villem Tomiste, Mihkel Tüür.

Kumu by Pekka Vapaavuori

Kumu by Pekka Vapaavuori

Source: Image by Avishai Teicher

Kumu by Pekka Vapaavuori

The city’s prestigious architecture biennale will be held later this year from 13 September to 27 October. Earlier this month ICAP was named winner of the competition held as part of the biennale which sought a ’new urbanity’ for the unique Paljassaare Peninsula in Tallinn.

Tallinna Kaubamaja was the first large department store to open in Estonia, and is located in the centre of the Estonian capital, a short distance from its harbour. Created in the 1960s, the Soviet-era building is one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. 

Tallinna Kaubamaja Group is Estonia’s largest retailer, employing more than 3,500 people across a range of subsidiaries. The latest project aims to regenerate the existing department store, deliver a new administrative building on Rävala Avenue and create a subterranean car park.

Judges include Tallinna Kaubamaja Real Estate director Peeter Kütt, Arvo Rikkinen of the Tallinn City Planning Board, and local architects Martin Aunin, Jaak Huimerind and Peep Jänes. The winner, due to be announced on 8 November, will receive around £48,500 and the design commission.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 5pm local time, 21 September

Contact details

The Estonian Association of Architects
Põhja pst 27A
10415 Tallinn

Tel: (+372) 6117430
Fax: (+372) 64117434

Visit the competition website or more information

Q&A with Peeter Kütt

The director of Tallinna Kaubamaja Real Estate discusses his ambitions for the competition

Peeter Kütt

Peeter Kütt

Peeter Kütt

Why are your holding an international contest to regenerate Tallinna Kaubamaja quarter?

The contes has been prepared in close co-operation with the owners of the property, Kaubamaja, The Estonian Association of Architects and City of Tallinn. This important landmark project has to contribute to the sound development of Tallinn city centre, where Kaubamaja has played and will continue to play a vital role. Kaubamaja has for decades been a historical retail space in the centre and given people many reasons for coming to the city centre. With a new concept, the complex should add quality architecture to the cityscape and function as a lively meeting place.

What is your vision for the future of the landmark complex?

This project is not only about the prestigious building itself, but also the public space surrounding it. The architects are called to design one of the symbols of Tallinn (or even Estonia), both for local people and for our international visitors, and thus it’s hard to overestimate the importance and high visibility of this competition. The architectural competition will give us a modern quarter with new Kaubamaja, Rävala office building, apartments and an underground parking lot.

According to the plans, the reconstruction will have an allowed above-ground closed gross surface area of 57,000m². The surface area of Tallinn’s most prestigious department store Kaubamaja will increase by 2.5 times, compared to its present surface area.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We are waiting for the best local and international architects to participate, in order to be able to choose from the brightest designs and best functional ideas. The competition is open to all architects; there’s no such thing as a useless idea as long as its creativity is founded in functionality and it fits with the competition’s parameters. One of the most important parts of the future design should be the new representation of Kaubamaja as it’s an important landmark of Estonian retail throughout its history. The deadline for the competing works is 21 September 21, and the chosen winner will receive an award of €55,000. Every architect probably realises that this project is also unique due to the fact that not many big department stores are built in the city centre nowadays and that this project will receive a lot of attention internationally as well.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Tallinna Kaubamaja Real Estate, one of the two owners of the land on the client side of the project, is one of the most established and reputable real estate developers in Estonia. It is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Tallinna Kaubamaja Group, whose stocks are listed in Tallinn Stock Exchange. It manages currently about 130,000m² of retail lease property, Viimsi Centre being the latest addition to the portfolio. Viimsi is a great example of an excellent symbiosis of everyday functional retail space and recreational facilities. It’s also a perfect example of architects working together with a nature leaving a huge boulder inside the building for everyone to enjoy.

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