Tallinn, European Capital of Culture
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th June, 2011
During the long years of Soviet occupation, most of the coast around Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, was off-limits to the local population, as a military, ‘frontier’ zone. From viewing platforms in Tallinn’s magnificent old city (now thronged with tourists), they could look out across the sea towards Finland, but otherwise the city and its inhabitants were forced to look in on themselves. It’s 20 years since Estonia regained its independence and this year also sees Tallinn as one of the designated European Capitals of Culture. The programme for this is less ambitious than some in the past have been in other European cities — at a time of austerity, funds are low — but there is nonetheless a wide range of exhibitions, concerts, plays, films (including screenings in the open air on the roof of a shopping centre), children’s drumming under a Brazilian Master and a host of other events. But maybe the most striking new venture is the work currently still going on in the old seaplane hangar that was put up in 1916, when Czar Nicholas II was boosting the defences of St Petersburg in the First World War. This extraordinary structure — the most advanced concrete building of its time, erected by a Danish company for which Ove Arup worked — boasts three domes and when restored it will form Tallinn’s new Maritime Museum. The star exhibit of that will be the 1936 UK-built submarine ”Lembit’, which is currently in dry-dock being tarted up. Though the project won’t actually be finished in time for the 2011 cultural capital deadline, the whole area will be a wonderful legacy for the city and should lead to a total regeneration of the coastline which, at long last, is in the people’s reach.