Activity of INTA Community of Competence on Workspace Urbanism

RETHINKING PUBLIC BUILDINGS FOR A NEW CIVIC LANDSCAPE: The City Hall as Headquarter for Intelligent Cities
Open international Roundtable in Tallinn, Estonia - 25-27 May 2011

Upon the invitation of the City Government of Tallinn, INTA gathered an international group of practitioners to rethink the potential of the new City Hall, of which construction is starting end of this year, in structuring a new civic landscape.

Titled “The Public Village” to underline a civic space where citizens can interact with their policymakers, the dramatic new Town Hall was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group, the award-winning Danish architecture firm.

INTATallinnThe new building will be located at a currently underused seashore site. Together with other planned developments in the area, the project will create a new urban quarter, open to the sea for the citizens to better access the waterfront and the cruse port area. The iconic building will attract citizens, visitors and investors, while reducing pressure on the Old Hanseatic Town, which receives millions of tourists every year within its already dense walled space.

Several days of consultation with Estonian stakeholders from local government, port authority, civil society and university, followed by inspiring public debates, helped to clarify the overriding logic of the new City Hall in its relation to the surrounding quarter. It was obvious that even if it is difficult to animate a large waterfront as the one of Tallinn, the City will change with the opportunity brought by the new building, an object part of a broader picture.

The construction of such a signature building establishes the determination of the City leaders to get high quality development for their urban projects, thus reinforcing the negotiating power of the City in its dealings with landowners and property developers; the pattern of collaboration with the various stakeholders being largely informed by the new building.

Regrouping all the City departments under one roof offers a chance to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of the public administration; the challenge is the outside of the building in the sense that a new concept for the area is needed, including changing the pattern of circulation, accessibility, diversification of urban functions and connectedness to the other parts of the City and to the cruise port.

Suggestions were made to engage stakeholders to focus not only on the development of singular projects, but also on defining a larger vision that will allow a multidimensional urban fabric that is needed to support an innovative economy. The current involvement of citizens in the early phases of the development was applauded; it ensures that the aspiration of the residents is taken care throughout the regeneration process.

Cases from Antwerp, Riga and Warsaw, Hamburg’s HafenCity, Paris‘ Rive Gauche, Vancouver’s harbour area, and Singapore’s One North provided valuable insights on mixed-function environments, while interactive buildings like London’s Royal Festival Hall, the Hub, Seattle’s Public Library, etc, illustrated what can be learned from a stakeholder assembly, project phasing and civic engagement.

Thanks to Toomas Sepp, Tallinn’s City Secretary and Endrik Mänd, Tallinn’s Chief Architect, together with their team and several Estonian stakeholders, the Roundtable resulted in a thorough understanding of the issues at stake when planning for a new civic landscape.

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International Urban Development Association

A global membership association of urban policy-makers and practitioners to share knowledge, experience and tools for integrated territorial development.  // READ MORE