Our Past

Electricity

Tallinn City Administration decides to build a power plant; candles, gas and oil lamps disappear from circulation

During the last years of the 18th century a need to use electrical energy for lighting as it was practised in metropolitan areas also arose in Tallinn. In particular, the safe and efficient lighting method attracted the attention of the business owners operating in the heart of the city. In the beginning of 1909 the Tallinn City Administration decided to build a new power plant on the expense of the city. The plant was to be built on the land located by the gas plant close to the Great Coastal Gate. Closeness of the port and sea favoured supply of coal from England to be used as fuel. However the power plant project, which had started so spectacularly, was stopped because of lack of funding, until 1911 when a contract was signed with the joint stock company Volta. The construction work of the new power plant and grid began in May 1912 and ended in December of that year.

The building of the plant was built according to the design by an architect H. Schmidt. According to the initial design 26 transformer substations with 3 kV high-voltage and 220 V low-voltage cable networks were built. As propelling units three Laval-type 250 horsepower (184 kW) steam turbines made by a local company Volta were chosen. These were connected to 166 kW AC alternators. Two Steinmüller’s coal-fired steam boilers with steam parameters of 12.5 atm and steam superheating up to 325 degrees were installed in the boiler house. The speed of the turbine-generators was 3000 rpm producing three-phase current with a voltage of 3.150 V. At the same time cable lines and transformer substations were built in the city to transmit electrical current to the consumers. Now, when a new miracle solution was found, candles, gas and oil lamps were discarded forever.

 

The first electricity consumer is connected to the central power plant of Tallinn City

The first electricity consumer was connected to the grid on 24 March 1913. This date can be considered as the start date of operation of Tallinn’s electricity grid. The plant was completed for summer 1913 and with the cable infrastructure for electricity it cost 385,000 roubles. The operation of the plant was subject to the control of the lighting and water supply commission of the Tallinn City Council and it was named as the Central Power Plant of Tallinn City. The council invited engineer Evald Maltenek, who had a polytechnic diploma from Riga and whose diploma work was precisely the design of the power plant, to be the manager of the plant. Many former sailors were hired as employees.

The electricity network was built up till the city centre and from there towards the main streets. On Paldiski Road it reached the railway, on Pärnu Road the present Liivalaia Street, on Tartu Road the Central Market and on Narva Road the former narrow-track railway. High-voltage current was directed to the city via three underground trunk lines and in the city it was transformed into 220 V current. This low-voltage current was directed in the buildings. The length of the high-voltage cable (3 kV) was 8.985 m and of the low-voltage cable 9.775 m. In total 24 kiosk-type transformers with a total capacity of 525 kV * A were built. Initially there was a lack of subscribers and their electricity consumption was so small that in the first half of 1913 the equipment of the plant was operating almost without load. By the end of the year the length of high-voltage cables reached 17,009 m and low-voltage cables reached 18,512 m. The number of subscribers had risen up to 754 but as salaries were high and the plant output was only 414,431 kWh, the year ended with a loss of 31 roubles and 45 kopeks.

 

First World War prevents expansion of the power station

In 1914 the plant’s director engineer Maltenek proposed to expand the plant. The project received the approval of the council on 16 September, 1915, but expansion of the power station was prevented by the outbreak of the First World War and constant lack of money the city authorities were facing. Nevertheless, more and more consumers were switched in the network and by 1917 the capacity was exhausted. Consumption had to be limited in the whole city. Each subscriber was allowed to burn a maximum of two lamps at a time and sometimes automatic current limiters were used. Difficulties with fuel arose. Anthracite from Donetsk used so far was replaced with wood and turf. The capacity deficiency was eliminated in 1921 by installing a new turbo generator in the power plant of the city. This in turn opened new opportunities for expanding the grid.

On 24 February 1918, when the Russian army left, a major collision between the 1st division of the Defence Forces and the employees of the power plant on one side and soldiers of the Red Army plundering the city on another side. The soldiers of the Red Army, whose aim was to demolish the power plant, were beaten back but during this Johann Muischnek, a member of the Defence Forces, was killed. To honour him a memorial plaque was placed on the tower of the Coastal Gate.

 

Expansion of the plant during the War of Independence, continuous problems with fuel

The director of the plant was now of Alexander Markson, who held this position till 1941. By 1918 the load of the Tallinn Power Plant had grown to the extent that the equipment worked overloaded and during evening peak hours help from industrial power stations was used. It was only at the time of the War of Independence in 1919 that the opportunity to increase the capacity of the plant opened up. For this boilers from an English company Babcock & Wilcox were used, a turbo unit with Wumag 2 MW turbine was ordered from Siemens-Schuckert plant and two inclined water tube boilers with the heating surface of 251 m2, steam parameters 15 at 350°C and output of 5 t / h ordered from Steinmüller plant were commissioned in 1921. As fuel, turf was used.

Assembly of the turbo unit was completed in December 1920 and in January next year, the plant supplied alone the city with electricity and thus starting from 1913 the smaller plants, which had been working nonstop so far, could be placed in reserve. The new turbo dynamo used less steam and saved almost 50% of fuel.

By 1922 the load of the power plant had increased by almost double and the output of the plant tended not to be sufficient again. The same year electricity was first used to power also the street lighting in Tallinn. Street lighting points were built and maintained by the power plant. The power plant and gas plant had constant problems with fuel, due to which the lighting and water supply commission turned to the suppliers to obtain more wood.

 

The fuel problem is solved with implementing oil shale

By 1 January, 1923 the power plant had over 7000 subscribers. The length of the power grid had increased and was now almost 90 kilometres. Around 75% of the production of the plant was used for lighting and 25% for industrial needs. In 1923 maximum load of 1.850 kW was registered.

On 2 May, 1924, a plan of the lighting and water supply committee was approved, according to which oil shale was implemented as fuel in the plant. It was assessed that the general cost for implementation was 54 million marks. The same year grade I and II oil shale was implemented. New 2000 and 1240 kv A turbo units and two Babcock & Wilcox boilers with steam parameters of 15 at 360°C and fuelled by oil shale were set up. Implementation of oil shale was a breakthrough movement at that time. This solved the fuel supply of the power plant for a long time and secondly gave impetus to the development of oil shale combustion technology in Estonia. In 1925 the plant was renamed as Tallinn City Power Plant. By this time the maximum load was 2700 kW.

 

Smoke war with city dwellers starts, the chimney gets an extension and a cableway for storing ash is built

In connection with implementation of oil shale a number of problems emerged. The plans looked great on paper but the stark reality was something totally different. While burning oil shale, black smoke started emitting from the chimney, wind carried it to the city and this upset people a lot. The smoke war began, which like any other military action, was willingly and thoroughly reflected by the press. It came out that the new metal chimney installed on oil shale boilers was too low, just 20 meters high. At the time the boiler was ordered, the length of the chimney was determined incorrectly, and there was also no experience in burning oil shale in large boilers and it was not possible to find a suitable type of furnace.

Another concern was related to storing ash. Compared to previous fuels, combustion of oil shale generated much more ash but there was not sufficiently space to store it next to the power plant. This provoked the outrage of inhabitants of the surrounding as well as industrial companies. The situation was solved so that ash was carried to the nearby beach, which in its turn increased the area of wetlands. To that end, on 4 February, 1926 a new 250 m long cableway was implemented, along which the workers could push ash carriages back and forth between the plant and the beach. The task of the cableway was to supply steam boilers with fuel and to carry ash and slag from the furnaces to the single-track cable railway located on the beach.

 

Electricity as an assistant of a housewife in the household

In the 1920s and 1930s, the capacity of the power plants exceeded significantly the load. There was a need to expand the number of consumers. On 15 December Tallinn Power Plant opened a sales point of electrical equipment and a consultancy bureau in the old weighing point at the Town Hall, the main aim of which was to promote domestic consumption of electricity in households. In order to increase electricity consumption, power tools were borrowed to the residents, as the purchase price of the tools was quite high for people not so prosperous. Much attention was paid to making cheap power steam locks, which takes only some minutes, as they say. In the beginning of the 1930s the use of electricity in households expanded even more. In 1936 the first building with 15 electrical kitchens was built in Tallinn. On 1 April, 1939 there were already 29 houses with in total 384 electric cookers with a general output of 1993 kW. An advice centre of the power plant was also opened.

 

Constant need for expansion of the plant and reviewing electricity tariffs

The growing number of consumers led to continuous expansion plans of the plant. In February 1927 director A. Markson proposed to expand the power plant. The council approved the proposal, and thereafter an expansion plan had to be elaborated. For this 300,000 marks were allocated.

In 1929 the company started assembling a Wumag 5 MW turbine. In 1934 a new boiler house was built and two Babcock & Wilcock boilers with a steam output of 15 t / h with steam parameters 26.25 at 400°C were assembled. At the same time they started using grade III oil shale and for this the furnaces were equipped with AS Ilmarine bar grates. In connection with expansion plans, secondary relays were introduced in the Tallinn Power Plant in 1930. The generators, as well as 3 kV feeders were equipped with current-related delayed overcurrent protection. As a source of operative voltage, a battery (200 V, 240 A * h) was used. Power switches were remote controlled. New boilers were implemented on 11 January, 1935. The boiler house had cost 1,486,476 euros. Now it was possible to implement 5 MW turbine at atmospheric pressure. The reason the plant was expanded in stages was mostly lack of money affecting the city but also lack of experience in this field.

By the end of 1937, the total length of the grid had already reached 330 km, of which 82 km were high-voltage grids. By that time there were 44,173 consumers and the general maximum operative load was 7250 kW. Electricity tariffs were thoroughly restructured. 13 different types of general tariffs were elaborated in order to ensure better adaption to specific circumstances. The new tariffs consisted of a kilowatt-hour price and basic fee corresponding to the capacity fee, allowing customers to benefit from the nature and time of power consumption. As to the main fee, the price of electricity used for household and lighting apartments was 6 cents/kWh.

 

Five-year development plan, which was not implemented because of war conditions

Until 1940 the plant was expanded on four occasions, the author of the three expansion designs was A. Markson, a long-time (1917-1941) manager of the power plant and a qualified electrical engineer. In 1938 the plant became 25 years old. At that time the biggest turbo unit (10 MW) made by Wumag was installed. It required 45 t of steam per hour to work in full capacity. For this they needed a new boiler, which was ordered in cooperation of two companies. By 1938 the electrical capacity of the power plant increased to 19,200 kW being the largest in Estonia at that time. In 1939 a big boiler from the company Babcock & Wilcox arrived. The steam capacity of it was 30 t/h. In addition to the original brick chimney two metal chimneys were built. By the end of the expansion activities in the end of 1939, the capacity of the power plant was 19 MW, which was the biggest at that time. In 1940 a record amount of electricity (38.1 GW/h) was produced.

As a result of the abovementioned expansions, the Tallinn Power Plant became the most advanced and powerful (19 MW) energy company from a technical point. On 20 March, 1940 the plant had achieved such a capacity that anyone interested could be provided with electricity. The power plant was able to keep the rated frequency of 50 Hz so accurately that power meters with a synchronous motor were taken into extensive use. The power of the plant reached 19 MW but the management found it necessary to prepare a development plan for a longer period. This plan consisted of three stages, upon completion of which by 1951 the total capacity had to reach 70 MW. However due to the war conditions, the expansion plans were left aside.

 

The power plant passes under the domination of new power and is subjected to the communist party

In 1940-1941 the power plant fell into the hands of new power. Jaan Kilter was appointed plant director. He joined the people’s commissariat of the power plants in Moscow. The power plant had to demonstrate its boundless loyalty to the new power. To this end, meetings were convened, which were organized during red holidays and events.

Starting from 1 November, 1940, the power plant was subjected to the power of the power and heat management section of the community amenity of the executive committee of the council of the workers deputies of the Tallinn City. On 18 March, 1941 a power, gas and water supply trust of Tallinn City was formed within the power and heat management department. Everything started to be organised by the primary organisation of the Communist Party. During the parade of the October Revolution Day slogans such as “We increase power energy production at the Bolshevik pace”. The development plan of expanding the power plant was interrupted by the outbreak of the war.

Heating

Nazi Germany attacks the Soviet Union and the power plant is blown up

During the war in 1941-1944, the Tallinn Power Plant had to survive difficult times. Plans to further expand the plant were interrupted due to the attack by Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941. The withdrawing Red Army and destroyer battalion were instructed to evacuate bigger equipment from the power plant. On 27 August the power plant was evacuated – of the major equipment turbo generators with a total output of 26.75 MV *A, 22 transformers, 18 tons of cables and other devices and materials were taken behind the front line. In the eve of falling into the hands of the Nazis, the leaving detachment of the demolitions team of the red power exploded the machine room of the power plant along with the turbo units remaining in the plant, the boiler house and old brick chimney. Tallinn was left without electricity.

 

During the German occupation construction work of the power plant is started again

During the German occupation administrative restructuring was taken up first. The trust Estonian SSR Electricity became the Electricity Centre Estonian Electricity subordinated to the economy and transport directorate of the Estonian Municipality. During the German occupation electrical engineer E. Voot was named director of the power plant. He was a former manager of an electricity laboratory. However in practice the plant was led by a German army representative named Neumann.

In the first place the Germans tried restoring Tallinn and power plants and transmission lines supplying the oil shale industry of military importance. Partially it was done at the expense of relocating the equipment of other plants. In such a way the 5 MW turbine was taken from Ulila to the Tallinn Power Plant given to which the output of the plant reached 17 MW. Getting electricity in wartime conditions was an enormous benefit, especially since men were constantly being recruited to the army and there was a shortage of people who could have helped in restoring the plant. In addition it was difficult to get fuel because the oil shale industry had been destroyed and consumers were asked to save electricity. The employees of the power plant were issued temporary certificates of competence and they started restoring the Tallinn Power Plant.

With any request the commandant of the City of Tallinn had to be addressed. In case the request was justified, the Tallinn economics team asked the applicant to go to the office of the Tallinn Power Plant, where after technical feasibility surveys had been carried out, the request was approved or not. Until 16 June, 1942 the Tallinn Power Plant was subjected to the municipality, thereafter the plant went over to the Germans. The name of the institution “Eastern area energy supply association. Estonian commissar general area. Countrywide power stations and grids”. The plant itself was named the Tallinn Power Plant and grids. From there on, the power plant did not belong to the municipality.

 

Russians invade the city, the Tallinn Power Plant is subjected to Estonian SSR Electricity – the People’s Commissariat trust of the Estonian SSR community amenity

In 1944 the retreating Germans fired at the plant from the sea with dozens of shells, as a result of which the building of the boiler house, as well as three newer boilers and the metal chimney were damaged. The roof of the boiler house caught fire but the workers managed to extinguish it. The equipment could not be taken to Germany, as the German disassembler failed to fulfil his task.

Once again one power had been replaced with another and the power plant was damaged but this time it was still able to transmit some power. They managed to start the 6 MW turbo generator and boilers no. 1 and 2. Yet the operation pressure and generated steam quantity was less than required by the turbine required and thus the unit was able to provide only 2.5 MW. However the operation of the plant was hampered by a shortage of fuel, as the power plants in the oil shale region were down and the mine needed electricity. The supply of oil shale was restored only by 26 November 1944 and even that in small volumes (50 to 100 tons per day).

On 27 June, 1945 a new 6 MW generator from Siemens-Schuckert was implemented. The Tallinn Power Plant was subordinated to the Estonian SSR Electricity – the People’s Commissariat trust of the Estonian SSR community amenity. On 20 June, 1945 the trust Estonian SSR Electricity was given over to Estonian Energy subordinated to the People’s Commissariat of USSR and the plant was renamed the Tallinn Energy Region.

 

Electricity-saving regime and planned economy

Due to the deficit of electrical energy, consumption limitations had to be imposed on businesses and institutions in a volume of around 60% from the consumption in December 1940. For lighting a room 5 kWh was permitted and in addition 10 kWh per month was allowed for a family for general needs. To prevent current consumption over the limit, current limiters were used. In September 1946, the Council of Ministers of the ESSR established new provisions for the use of electricity. In case an institution consumed electricity above the limit or even used electrical stoves to heat their rooms, it had to pay a fine of up to 10,000 roubles.

From now on work had to be planned to be able to fulfil the plan and to determine a percentage the plan was exceeded in case the job was completed before the deadline. Those who were constantly exceeding the plan were awarded the title of a foremost worker, which was very often accompanied by a financial prize. Electricity cannot be produced more than it is consumed but the consumers were facing a strict limit and they were required to save electricity. Thus preparing a plan for the power plant was an impossible mission from the very beginning.

The plan of recovering and developing the economy of the ESSR included expansion of the Tallinn Power Plant. The plan was prepared by an engineering organisation in Leningrad called Lenpromenergoprojekt. In this plan it was foreseen to expand the new boiler house, to build a new chimney and a transportation system of fuel based on belt conveyors and a hydraulic ash discharge system. In 1946 it was planned to build a new boiler house, which was to begin on 1 April, 1947. However the preparatory work took longer than planned. For example the attitude of construction trust no. 1 towards work was really foolish – rails meant for cars for carrying soil running from the foundation ditch to the sea crossed the railway in four places. When the train came, the rails of the cars were disassembled and after this assembled again and so many times a day. “Valuable work hours are lost there,” complained the Õhtuleht.

 

Spectacular construction work – the tallest chimney in the Baltic States and a spectacular trestle are built

On 27 March, 1948, the Tallinn Power Plant got the highest chimney in the Baltic States. Starting from the foundation the length of the chimney was 102.5 m. Reinforced concrete was made in a volume of 900 m3 and 57 tons of iron framework were installed. In total 800,000 chimney bricks, 100,000 standard bricks and 500 tons of cement were used. The equipment fleet of the power plant also got an addition, namely turbo unit no. 4 with an output of 6 MW arrived from Germany.

Technical innovations were implemented in relay protection, automation system, telemechanics and measuring instruments. The first automatic reclosing relays were implemented in 1949. In 1955 a new high-voltage distribution device, which also included equipment for voltages 6 and 35 kV, was completed. In the same year the power plant got a new contact board manufactured by Elektropult, a plant located in Leningrad.

It was not until 1951 that a hydraulic ash discharge system was introduced. A year later transportation of ash to the beach by using this method was stopped. The present City Hall is built exactly on this ash field.

In 1954 the trestle meant for transporting fuel and the first line of belt conveyors, the building of which had started some years before, was finally completed. The transportation capacity of the line was 120 tons of fuel per hour. Fuel was lifted on the belt by means of an excavator and was transported to the boilers on three consecutive belts. The second line was ready the next year and the cableway was demolished. Finally transportation of fuel was completely mechanised.

 

The power plant is turned into an enterprise producing heat

The efficiency of the power plant started falling behind and thus a plan was made to change the power plant to an enterprise producing heat. 60% of the fuel used in the Tallinn Power Plant was directed uselessly to the sea as heat of cooling water and as turbines no. 2 and 3 supported steam extraction, establishing a district-heating network for Tallinn was included in the five-year plan. A boiler was planned in the plant, main pipelines were designed through the plant via branch pipes to the heat assemblies installed in the houses, which had to be built according to this plan. The initial plan was to heat over 50,000 apartments in the city. Thermofication was supposed to reduce heating costs and make air cleaner.

The main piping consisted of two 500 mm steel pipes insulated with mineral wool and installed in the reinforced concrete ditch. The construction work was assigned to Estonian Energy Construction and Assembly Department and the design of the boiler unit was prepared by the Leningrad department of the engineering institute Promenergoprojekt. The piping ran from the power plant via Rannavärava Street and Mere Boulevard to Viru (Stalin) Square. However the working speed was very slow due to such obstacles as high ground water and closely placed underground power, water, communications and gas cables.

On 22 October, 1957 the facility was renamed the Tallinn Heat and Power Plant and by this time the last turbine was also adapted for steam extraction. By 1959 the electricity production had reached 144.3 kWn until a 100 MW turbo generator was implemented in the Baltic Power Plant, after which the main focus was directed to increase heat production. It can be seen from the report of Estonian Energy for 1960 that the first heat energy consumer was the administrative building of Estonian Energy, which was connected to the heat pipeline on 22 January 1960.

In order to increase heat production, a new water boiler was needed. The National Economy Council chose a boiler PTVM-100 (Russian alphabet!) with a capacity of 100 Gcal/h. As the boiler was heated with black oil, the design of installation of the boiler as well as the black oil management system was prepared by the Leningrad department of the engineering institute Promenergoprojekt. The boiler was installed in a place of an old boiler, which broke down in 1963. The boiler had a steel chimney with a diameter of 3.5 m and length of 55 m and in addition two 2,000 m3 reinforced concrete containers were installed.

In December 1960 only 6% of the heat capacity of the plant was used as building distribution networks and house connections developed more slowly than building heat network main piping and from the money allocated for this only 17% was used. In 1961 the cableway and the depreciated 75 m long metal chimney were demounted. In 1963–1967 the plant had two chimneys.

 

Employees of the power plant participate in sports and amateur performance activities and also in political education workshops

The employees of the power plant participated successfully in sports and amateur performance activities. They participated in handball and light athletics competitions, a swimming section and basketball and volleyball teams were formed. There was a folk dance group, brass orchestra, male and female ensemble and a drama club performing a folk piece titled “A Suitor from Rakvere”, for example. Comrade Vaimre conducted a big mandolin orchestra with 24 members in total. The work of a cultural commission was hampered by the fact that they were not allocated any financial funds. Where these funds had disappeared, the cultural committee could not say.

In the early 1960s a new term was introduced – communist work movement. Great emphasis was placed on political educational work. To this end political educational workshops were formed. In these workshops comrade Stalin’s book The Great Patriotic War and the constitutions of the USSR and ESSR were discussed in a systematic manner.

 

Transition to liquid fuel, the plant is renamed the Heat and Power Plant Tallinn

The use of oil shale was stopped at the beginning of July, 1965. Thanks to the transition to liquid fuel, the smoke cloud constantly upsetting the residents disappeared from above the city and it marked the beginning of a new stage in the work of the plant. In this way personnel and fuel costs were reduced and the efficiency factor of the plant was increased. At the same time the heating surfaces of the boiler started corroding because of the high sulphur content in black oil.

In 1965 a 35 kV distribution device was reconstructed. It was provided with two 35/6 kV transformers with a capacity of 15 MVA each. 35 kV cable installed between the Endla substation and power plant allowed consumers in the city to be supplied with electricity from the Baltic Power Plant via the distribution device of the plant, if needed. In 1966 the first turbine was rebuilt in order to increase the heat capacity. According to the design prepared by the Leningrad branch of the Orgenergostroi institute, the two last stages were removed from the rotor of the turbine and the capacitor was rebuilt.

In 1967 the power plant was renamed the Heat and Power Plant Tallinn and the entire enterprise with the added heat resources were renamed the Tallinn Heat and Power Plant. Due to the boiler implemented in the end of the year, the heat capacity of the plant reached 267 Gcal/h and there was nowhere to develop further – there was not enough free space.

 

The plant produces its last kilowatt-hours of electricity and it is renamed the Tallinn Heat Network

While repairing turbine no. 2 dangerous external cracks were found in the fastening points of the blades of diaphragms and thus in 1975 a decision was made to dismount turbo unit no. 2 and boilers no. 3 and 4. The remaining three turbo units remained in reserve and they were still used during the repairs of the energy system until 1979.

Production of electricity was stopped in 1979 at a time of launching the new Iru Power Plant meant to supply Tallinn with heat and electricity.

The entire energy management discussed above was subjected to Estonian SSR energy and electrification production unit Estonian Energy with its many divisions and institutions. In 1971 Estonian Energy was subjected to the Energy and Electrification Ministry of USSR and it was renamed the ESSR’s energy and electrification production main unit Estonian Energy.

On 2 February, 1979 the plant produced its last kilowatt-hours of electrical energy and from that day on, the turbo units of the plant remained silent for ever. The former Tallinn City Central Power Plant producing and distributing electricity had now become an enterprise producing and distributing heat and from 1 January, 1982 the name of the company was also changed due to the nature of the production. Now it was named the Tallinn Heat Network. Just as Tallinn will never be ready, the Tallinn electricity network will never be ready, either. The Old Man of Lake Ülemiste will still have a long wait until Tallinn is completely finished.

Culture

Tallinn’s boiler room left unused for years

In 1982, due to the nature of production, the company’s name was changed from Tallinna Linna Elektri Keskjaam (the Central Power Plant of the City of Tallinn ) to Tallinna Soojusvõrguettevõte or Tallinna Soojusvõrk (the Tallinn Heating Company). In 1983 Leonid Lipavski was appointed its new director. The boiler room was used until 1987. According to records, the boiler room then had two steam boilers, two boilers for heating water and 40 employees altogether. At the end of the Soviet occupation, during perestroika, the building was left empty to function as a cold reserve that could be powered up, if needed, with advance notice of a day or two.

 

Metal dealers clear building of copper and it remains empty

On 20 August 1991 Estonia regained its independence. The former power plant building finally became the property of Tallinn City Government and remained idle for years as a reserve for Tallinna Soojus. Freedom entailed some unexpected developments. In the first years of independence, metal thieves looted abandoned factories and Tallinn Creative Hub was no exception.

 

Birth of the culture centre concept and the City Government’s seaside plans

Turning old factory buildings into culture centres was already common practice elsewhere in the world. From 1998 to 1999 Veronika Valk wrote her master’s thesis, which included the first idea of putting the old power plant into use as a culture centre. In the year 2000, Veronika Valk and Villem Tomiste won the architectural competition for planning Tallinn’s seaside area. In 2001, the City Council passed the resolution to start a general plan for the coast area between Paljassaare and Russalka.

 

Establishment of nongovernmental organization MTÜ Kultuurikatel

The general plan was nevertheless delayed and the building remained empty until a group of people gathered around the building in the period 2005 to 2006, who were all in favour of putting it into use again. Initially, Tallinn Creative Hub was a grass-roots level local development project that drew together producers of culture and creative persons from all walks of life. MTÜ Kultuurikatel was created on 25 July 2006 and its Management Board still comprises Veronika Valk, Peeter-Eerik Ots, Maria Hansar, and Andres Lõo. The plans for Linnahall and the areas of Kalasadam and Vanasadam, including the construction of residential buildings and the City Government building by the sea, were passed with the resolution of Tallinn City Council dated 15 November 2007, confirming the concept titled “Opening Tallinn to the sea”.

 

Tallinn Creative Hub comes in first place in the people’s vote

In 2007, the chimney, estacade, gasometer, and boiler room were declared objects of cultural heritage under the Heritage Conservation Act. After that, all administrative proceedings concerning the said buildings been conducted through Tallinn’s Department of Culture. There were plans to complete the building of Tallinn City Theatre as well as the new Creative Hub by the Capital of Culture project in 2011, but it became evident that there would not be sufficient funds for both. The issue was put to popular vote “Tallinn Creative Hub vs. Tallinn City Theatre” and the former won. The City Government assigned 30 million kroons from the city’s budget in 2009 for the development of the Culture Hub as part of the Capital of Culture project 2011. The winners of the architectural competition, architects Siiri Vallner and Indrek Peil from Kavakava, were announced on 29 May 2009.

 

Tallinn was European Capital of Culture Tallinn 2011

In 2011 the foundation Tallinna Kultuurikatel took over management of the complex and began renovation. Evelyn Sepp became a new member of the Management Board. The foundation functions as the follow-up to the European Capital for Culture ‘Tallinn 2011’ project in Tallinn. The new primary goal of Tallinn Creative Hub was to diversify cultural life in Tallinn and elsewhere in Estonia together with various other organisations; reconstruct the complex of Tallinn Creative Hub, and turn the Creative Hub into a development centre for modern culture, culture export and creative industries, and make it an attractive urban space as well as a centre for educational and leisure activities.

 

Corner stone of Centre of Architecture and official opening of Tallinn Creative Hub

On 30 May 2014, Väino Sarnet took up position as the member of the Management Board of SA Tallinna Kultuurikatel and took the construction procurements of the building in hand to successfully finalise the renovation work. The building was opened with festivities in the spring of 2015. Thanks to Väino Sarnet’s activity a permit to use the entire building was issued on 7 December 2015, enabling Tallinn Creative Hub to start operating in full.

On 1 December 2015 Liina Oja started work as head of the foundation. Tallinn Creative Hub focussed on its primary objective, the development of culture and creative industries, and Tallinn Creative Hub became a popular centre for creativity and culture in the seaside area of downtown Tallinn. In the spring of 2016, Tallinn Creative Hub entered the competition for the work area programme of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and came in first place – the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, started on 29 June 2017, took place in Tallinn Creative Hub. The building, with its curious historical heritage, has now undergone thorough renovation and become a valued venue for cultural events, festivals, concerts, and exhibitions. It also houses various companies engaged in creative industries. The surroundings of Tallinn Creative Hub also constitute an interesting urban space – Tallinn Creative Hub Garden or Pada is a relaxed place for spending time and organising summer events. The Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia, the Energy Discovery Centre, and the Linnahall cultural heritage site are all located nearby.

290 events took place in Tallinn Creative Hub in 2016 and together with the events held at restaurant Korsten Armastus ja Hea Toit and other long-term tenants of the building, 200,000 people visited Tallinn Creative Hub in total. Tallinn Creative Hub also engaged in a number of independent initiatives by organising free public events for residents of Tallinn. The spring of 2016 was the first time that the Night of Museums and Tallinn Day were celebrated in Tallinn Creative Hub; Tallinn Creative Hub also hosted the MELT conference, excursions for citizens of Tallinn, Tallinn Maritime Days, and, in September, the 10 km recreational race during Tallinn marathon passed through Tallinn Creative Hub.

In the spring of 2017, the D-block rooms were renovated and the wild garden area was transformed into an attractive multi-purpose city square. Conservation work was carried out on Stuart’s redoubt, a construction monument that forms a part of the sea fortress constructed in the beginning of the 19th century (now considered cultural heritage).The ruins by the gas tower were reconstructed. The chimney was fitted with a special structure to catch falling stones, which is unique in Estonia. To add attractiveness to the chimney, it was fitted with Europe’s highest Foucault pendulum, which will remain open to the public without charge.

 

Text compiled by Agne Nelk.