Architects demand cancellation of National Library renovation project

Architecture associations are demanding the minister of culture cancel a project to renovate the National Library of Estonia in Tallinn, claiming the designer does not have the "competence and experience" to carry out the plans.

The Association of Architects and the Association of Interior Architects want the procurement contract given to Sirkel & Mall OÜ to be terminated. Both architect associations say they are "seriously concerned" about the designs for the National Library on Tõnismägi.

Katrin Koov, president of the Union of Architects, and Pille Lausmäe, president of the Union of Interior Architects, wrote in a letter to Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) that the amount of renovation work has been considerably larger than originally planned, including plans to change the exterior of the building. 

"In our opinion, the main designer selected as a result of the public procurement does not have the competence and experience to organize an interior architecture competition," they wrote.

The letter states the terms of the competition presented to the Association of Interior Architects were "extremely unprofessional" and an "attempt to circumvent the special conditions of the Heritage Board, even though it is a building under heritage conservation status."

"We see this arrangement as a serious threat to the architectural integrity of the National Library building," the union leaders noted.

State real estate company Riigi Kinnisvara AS (RKAS), which signed a design agreement with Sirkel & Mall in August, did not organize the architectural competition, leaving it to the latter instead. 

The architects believe an architectural competition is needed and think the minister of culture should cancel the contract with Sirkel & Mall.

Despite the concerns of the architects, RKAS does not plan to cancel the design procurement or terminate the contract with Sirkel & Mall OÜ, RKAS project manager Priit Püss told ERR.

Püss said there were strict requirements in the design procurement which Sirkel & Mall's specialists met.

In addition, the design procurement had requirements from the Association of Architects, who have been involved throughout the process, Püss said. The building's original architect Raine Karp and interior architect Sulev Vahtra are also consultants in the design of the building. Both are also members of the jury of the interior architecture competition.

RKAS does not consider the organization of a separate architectural competition to be justified.

"There are no plans to add additional space to the National Library, so we didn't consider it necessary to hold an independent architectural competition," Püss said. "The building is under heritage conservation status, so there are strict rules about what can and cannot be changed around the building."

The building was declared a national monument by the Heritage Board in 2017. In August, the government allocated €1.3 million euros from the state budget to start the renovation process which should begin in 2022.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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