Linnahall redevelopment discussions moving forward

Existing Linnahall interior.
Existing Linnahall interior. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The coalition government, or so far the culture ministry, is to look at potential developments to the iconic Linnahall complex in Tallinn, converting it into an opera house at an estimated cost of €170 million. Some opposition has been raised by finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), however.

The Linnahall, built in 1980 for the Moscow Olympics, when it was originally name the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years, with various projects coming and going regarding what use could be made of it.

The site was used as a filming location for upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed thriller "Tenet", but part of the issue is the complex, in every sense of the word, nature of the 6000-square-meter Linnahall.

Proposals to fit a conference center and concert hall in the Linnahall in addition to an opera house have found support from culture minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), which would take around seven years to develop, he says.

"We decided it was right to go with the option of getting three important things done at once: with the opera house and the ballet hall, as well as the capital and the whole of Estonia getting a decent conference center and concert hall," said Lukas.

"It will be more economical to start building two large objects," he added, referring to the new opera house, pointing out that the decision ultimately is the Riigikogu's to make.

Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart said that a conference center was the priority so far as the city government goes, though was open to an opera house existing side-by-side.

"This is the primary question of whether the concept of a multi-functional center is possible, which would include a conference center, an opera house, and also the possibility to organize concerts. Theoretically, this is possible," said Kõlvart, speaking on ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera Thursday evening.

Siim Raie, Director General of the National Heritage Board (muinsuskaitseamet), also said on Aktuaalne kaamera that there would be no obstacle adding an opera hall, considering both the heritage conservation and the dimensions of the house itself.

National opera director Aivar Mäe a strong driving force

If it were to go ahead, the proposed opera house would mean a relocation of the National Opera House and Ballet (Rahvusooper) from its current location on Estonia puiestee.

The project also meets support from National Opera director Aivar Mäe, who repeated the seven-year timeframe.

"First we need to do a couple of analyses which would take a little bit of time. We also need to sketch out - of course this would be an international competition - how these things could look, logistics and conservation. In the meantime, it would take a year to get the idea picked up. In seven years, it could be ready, which would be a very good deal," Mäe said, on ETV current affairs show Ringvaade.

Mäe also attended a government meeting on Thursday, and said that a 1,200-seat opera and ballet house would be planned; the proposed conference center would be located where the original ice rink operated.

The National Opera and Ballet would not abandon its current building either, Mäe said. Performances would still take place there, and regional theaters including the Vanemuine (Tartu) and Rakvere theaters would also be able to use the current house.

PÖFF may find a place

Tiina Lokk, organizer of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF), which takes place every November and December, said that there might be space for hosting her organization's event too, if the Linnahall was developed along those lines.

Lokk had met with Mäe some days before she spoke to Ringvaade, and said that the latter was open to compromise on the issue.

Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) however went somewhat against the grain, saying that the decision so far had come from the culture ministry.

"In fact, I still have not decided," Helme wrote on his social media page.

"The Minister of Culture made the proposal, but there are too many questions and issues about this plan to decide something. If you want to look at things positively, you can say that these discussions will continue. If you want to be more specific, I do not [support the project]," Helme continued.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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