Heart of Sillamäe buildings to be placed under heritage conservation

Sillamäe's distinctive town center.
Sillamäe's distinctive town center. Source: Margus Müür

The National Heritage Board has initiated proceedings to bring a group of city center and administrative buildings as examples of 1940s-50s Stalinist architecture in Sillamäe under heritage conservation.

The Sillamäe city center and ensemble of administrative buildings to be placed under conservation covers a relatively small part of the city, Anita Staub, architectural heritage adviser for the board, told ERR. "The planned heritage conservation area will include approximately 159 buildings, which for Sillamäe is not a lot."

Sillamäe has caught the eye of architecture experts with the most complete and best-preserved neoclassical ensemble in the region – the heart of Sillamäe. "We can find similar ensembles in other Estonian cities. For example, Tallinn has neoclassical building ensembles in several of its districts, while Sillamäe stands out because there it forms the core of the city," Staub explained.

The proposal to place the area under conservation was made a decade ago during a campaign to document 20th century cultural objects. Foreign experts found the heart of Sillamäe to be unique and in need of protection. The protection procedure act bill will remain on public display until June 30.

A heritage conservation area will result in requirements and restrictions for the local government and private owners. "It means having to coordinate activities with the National Heritage Board. For example, it is forbidden to close off balconies or remove facade decorations. Heritage conservation special conditions will have to be applied for before future renovations. But this does not mean we will be designating a no building zone. We are seeking active use as it helps keep the buildings in good repair," Staub said. The government offers help of conservation specialists and financial incentives in return.

While protecting valuable interiors has been a priority for areas of heritage conservation in the past, maintaining the buildings themselves and their exterior is paramount in the case of Sillamäe. "Only two buildings sporting more valuable interiors will be conserved inside and out," Staub pointed out.

The protection procedure bill is available on the board's website or, with an appointment, at its Jõhvi offices or the Sillamäe city government. "We want people to tell us what they think about the plan. We encourage people to come up with proposals and voice opinions which we will analyze and consider if there are grounds," Staub offered. The process is only just beginning as the bill will need more work after initial discussions. The final decision will be made by the minister in charge of heritage conservation.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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