Karin Paulus: Let the construction begin!

Karin Paulus.
Karin Paulus. Source: Viktor Burkivski

Our country's holy cow – economic growth – is ailing, which is why we need a clever plan for restoring prosperity, Karin Paulus writes in a comment originally published in Sirp magazine.

It is clear the state can help and offer people work and a way to earn a living.

One good recipe is to launch all manner of construction projects. Unfortunately, we have already used up quite a few good ideas when times were good. Look at how many new schoolhouses, clever squares and museums we have!

Such feats that require a lot of money, hard work and the contribution of specialists could be just what the doctor ordered. Let us hope that the already greenlit state high school projects and new concepts for small cities are not shelved.

"Give us work!" contractors cry and kindly offer their help picking projects. But this needs to be a no-go! Let us build worthy architecture, even though relevant contests require more work than standard solutions collecting dust in drawers somewhere.

I would urge everyone to take some time and really think things through before taking action. Otherwise, we might find ourselves supporting developers of such premium Tallinn city center slums as Porto Franco.

Many have likely spent this summer touring Estonia and seeing the world European subsidies have built. Monumental rural municipality district service centers, stunning community centers, super ports and theme parks sporting three-dimensional Kalevipoegs! All this right next to half-abandoned villages made up of a handful of pensioners, tiny Czarist parish centers either completely abandoned or just hanging on next to schoolhouses from the first half of the century.

We could do with less needless showboating both in cities and in the country. How about creating things that fit instead of a jacket three sizes too big in hopes that the stomach it hides will one day catch up. We know that quite a few operators of new sports and exhibition halls are having serious trouble with daily upkeep.

The climate is not warming so quickly as to make heating in the winter superfluous. It is furthermore doubtful whether hares and moose inhabiting our forests absolutely need paved roads and deep ditches.

Therefore, let us build houses, roads and bridges, but let us do it more wisely and barring squandering. Now is the chance to introduce things that are new and interesting. Let us look if only at the popularity as a photo opportunity of Sille Pihlak and Siim Tuksam's so-called Soorebane (swamp fox) design powerline mast at the Risti intersection. New high voltage power lines are being constructed in many parts of Estonia and perhaps we could bring a few more corners of this country to the 21st century?

I also hope that State Real Estate Ltd., as the developer wielding the taxpayer's wallet, will promote keeping what is old but good. I'm saddened by news of one of our most exciting fire departments, namely Toomas Rein's red brick futudepot in Viljandi, losing its occupants as a simpler box will be built for the city's firefighters. The building is under heritage conservation and in a way, it is it the bell seems to be tolling for.

Perhaps we could put in more of an effort when looking for compromises? While it might be simpler to build new, original character and history aren't petty change. The same pattern recently manifested in Kohtla-Järve where a lovely funk schoolhouse proved unacceptable for the state and had to be replaced by something else (that luckily looks quite good).

The pandemic could also lead us to ask more existential questions. Why do we need anything in the first place? Where are we headed? Who are we really? While decisions should not be held back until the last minute (akin to the education ministry's handling of opening schools), deliberations having substance should not be taboo.

Perhaps we do not need something permanent, eonian architecture meant for a thousand-year state? Perhaps something small and temporary is needed in some places? Isn't it nice that at end of the day that something crumbles, rots and disappears, making room for plants, for example?

Leaving aside such ghastly words like "sustainability" and "climate neutrality", perhaps it is wiser to give up showboating and stereotypes both in terms of material and execution and move forward while leaving room for freedom of thought and alternative momentum.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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