MINUSPLUS shared with us their design project in Rakvere, Estonia, that was completed in 2009. The project consists of three main points – Vabaduse Square, St Paul’s Church, and Arvo Pärt Concert Hall.
The new design of Vabaduse square should contribute to the present day network of Rakvere’s public spaces with strengthening and complementing its present day public uses. Vabaduse square should become a lively public and cultural centre, that creates a counterpoint to the commercial centre — the main square — and the historic core of the city. The present day state of the square cannot fulfil this role in the city’s life due to reasons evolved throughout the last decades. The square is too large, the buildings on its perimeters are far and losely placed, thus cannot create a feeling of a closed urban space on the square; the traffic roundabout leaves an empty deserted space.
The design for the Vabaduse square tries to cure these faults.Traffic should be reorganized, so the square becomes released from the cars. The traffic of Vabaduse street should be detoured towards east on the Lembitu street before arriving to Vabaduse square and Võimla street would be closed. Accordingly only Koidula and Tuleviku streets pass on the square’s west and north sides, the other two sides joined together with the center of the square as pedestrian areas.
The enermous size of the space and the lack of closure is treated with the building volumes of the new concert hall and the proposed competence centre. These buildings divide the original huge space into smaller scale, more closed urban spaces, that can inhabit public activities and evoke the feeling of urban density.
The new concert hall building was placed on the Vabaduse square to complement the coherent ensemble of the three 30’s-40’s buildings with the means of a counterpointing, fresh and contemporary building. The basic volume of the new concert hall closes a rectangular square with the three public buildings, while the slanting and floating upper volume creates a tension between them, as it is positioned so, that only two of the three buildings can be seen together at a time. In the meantime the 60’s residential houses on the west are shut out from the view of the square, so its public institutional character remains undisturbed.
The volume of the new building is adapted to the desired views, it keeps the visual connection between the War of Independence monument and St Paul’s church and creates a clear end-point for the inbound streets: a landmarking gesture to the Vabaduse street and a cuddling towards Tuleviku street. Both of them emphasizes the arrival to the new public urban space.
The proposed competence centre stands on the lower part of the square, next to Koidula street. Its volume together with the concert hall creates also a city square, and adapts to the views. It faces the new city square and turns the ends of the wings towards the busy Koidula street.
ST PAUL’S CHURCH
The St Paul’s church building will be turned into a multifunctional public building, however the church hall does not serve as the main concert hall due to acoustic, heritage protection and functional causes.
The reconstruction of the building follows the principle of the minimal intervention. The interventions were divided into building annexes to the exterior and creating inlays inside the church hall.The inlays are minimal structures that ensure the use of the church hall as a cultural centre. All the additions are restricted to the longitudinal space of the main nave. One part of them form a wooden lining from the chancel, through the nave to the box of the Arvo Pärt room over the balcony. The other part is the movable acoustic curtains separating the space of the hall. The curtains can be adapted or totally removed.
These movable structures ensure the flexible use of the church hall. It can serve as a smaller concert hall — housing about 150 people — with the curtains and the bridge let down; as a meeting-, ball- or conference room if the space is opened up with an adaptive use of the ceiling elements; or even the liturgical use of the church is possible. With the wide variety of uses the church is aimed to become once again a place of regular gathering and celebration for the community of Rakvere.
ARVO PÄRT CONCERT HALL
The Arvo Pärt concert hall is housed in an independent new building, freely standing on Vabaduse square.The new concert hall building is formed by two volumes, according to the urban situation. The slanting and floating upper volume turns into the directions of the two inbound streets, which shows its importance. This orderly rectangular volume houses the great concert hall. Its regular volume follows the acoustically ideal concert hall shoebox. The concert hall’s space fulfils the acoustic requirements for performing symphonic compositions. The concert hall can house up to 475 visitors. On the stage there’s room for a full symphonic orchestra together with a choir balcony. The stage is constructed with liftable platforms, allowing a free use.
The basic volume follows the direction of the church and the secondary school. It consists the functions serving the large concert hall: the dressing-, tuning- and practice rooms of the artists on the northern end. The large practice halls are placed on the ground floor, allowing a flexible, public use of them. The halls are divided with mobile partition walls, so the practice halls can be joined together forming a larger chamber music room.
The circulation and lounge areas embrace the concert hall. Their form is influenced by the views opening up on the large window screens. The main lounge faces directly St Paul’s church due to the slanting of the building. This position offers a special view of the church, and shows a deep togetherness between the church and the concert hall. The large staircase turns into the direction of the view between the War of Independence monument and St Paul’s church.
The exterior character of the building is marked by the large windows of the lounge areas as well as by the thick walls covered with black, tar treated wood. The stirring volumes and the traditional black surfaces are deliberately contrasting the white plastered classical rationalism of Vabaduse square’s buildings.
(Zsolt Alexa, Donát Rabb, Ákos Schreck, Balázs Till, Tímea Molnár, Ivett Tarr, Attila Domokos, Imre Bokányi, Szilvia Milos, Petra Vinnai)