Our love affair with historical architecture began in New Orleans, Louisiana. We lived in a classic, hundred-year old shotgun house, and each day walked through the Garden District to St. Charles Avenue to catch the streetcar. With daily exposure to these architectural gems, as well as the very different but equally attractive French Quarter, an appreciation for historical buildings seeped into our psyches, and remains to this day.
Years of moving, traveling, and living in cities, large and small, also instilled an interest in the part that historical structures play in urban renewal.
So when we travel, whether domestically or abroad, we always search out restored historic districts. And in Tallinn, Estonia, this was the Rotermann Quarter.
The primary tourist destination in Tallinn is the meticulously restored and beautiful, Medieval Old Town. However, in Tallinn’s past, the central part of the city had old industrial buildings that were neither restored nor beautiful, and the Rotermann Complex was one of them.
In the 19th Century tale that’s been repeated time and again, Christian Rotermann established a very successful business between the city center and harbor. The large complex manufactured many things, but primarily was a flour and saw mill. Eventually the business faded, and like many old industrial complexes around the world, the large, brick structures were abandoned and became a blight in central Tallinn.
But in the Post-Soviet period, a group of visionary investors saw an opportunity to transform the property into a modern, unique facility to enhance the cityscape.
So with a mix of renovation, selective demolition, and commercial development, the site is now a wonderful addition to Tallinn’s character. Today, the mixed-use facility contains condos, offices, restaurants, and upscale clothing and gourmet shops.
One interesting aspect of the Rotermann renovation is the architects’ methods of preserving the old, and using it as a foundation for the new. These novel additions not only improve the function, but make unique, eye-catching buildings.
This unusual building has an exterior that is designed to rust, and what a nice … well … rusty color.
There’s no doubt that sometimes, demolition and replacement are the only feasible options. However, projects like the Rotermann Quarter showcase innovative alternatives that work, giving future generations an appreciation for the past as well as the future.
James & Terri