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. 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. The building was opened with festivities in the spring of 2015.

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.