Tartu's Ekraan cinema building may be replaced by commercial property

The Ekraan cinema building in Tartu
The Ekraan cinema building in Tartu Source: Joakim Klementi

The Estonian National Heritage Board does not consider the Ekraan cinema building in Tartu, which was closed last year, to be a cultural monument of national significance. The owner of the building has no clear plans for its future, but the city has given permission for a new commercial building to be constructed on the site.

Last spring, the Ekraan cinema building, which is on Riia tänav in Tartu, was bought by AS Estiko. From the start of Russia's war in Ukraine, until the end of August this year, the building used as information and support center for Ukrainian war refugees arriving in Tartu.

According to AS Estiko's real estate development manager Sven Saar, there are currently no concrete plans for the building's future. However, according to plans drawn up by the City of Tartu, a commercial property could be built on the site.

"However, given that it is at one of the busiest intersections in Tartu, I think, we still see the Riia 14 property as a building that would enrich the cityscape, both architecturally and functionally," said Saar.

Mart Kalm, rector of the Estonian Academy of Arts, believes that, on the one hand, the Ekraan building is likeable, because of the Nordic modernist aesthetic used by architect Raul-Levroit Kivi, meaning it has a certain new-age aesthetic and simplicity. On the other hand, of the six buildings built according to this type of design, three are still standing - in Tartu, Võru and Pääsküla.

"I wouldn't go out on a limb for the Tartu Ekraan building, although I do have fond memories of it. However, before you start demolishing a building, you always have to consider the positive features it has, which could be adapted," said Kalm.

The heritage board has said, that since significant alterations have already been made to the interior of the Ekraan building, it can no longer be considered a cultural monument of national significance.

However, Laura Ingerpuu, the heritage board's adviser-analyst for architectural heritage, does not rule out the possibility of other buildings, designed in the same style as Ekraan, being listed in the future.

For example, the Koit cinema building in Pääsküla has previously been considered for protection. "This idea was once expressed by heritage board's committee, but at the moment there is no official proposal to put the Koit cinema under protection, or to even consider this. However, of course, we cannot rule out the possibility of it happening at some point," Ingerpuu said.

Kalm added, that if the Ekraan building is eventually demolished, it may not be such a dramatic development in the overall context of the district in which it is located.

"From an urban planning point of view, it is no great achievement that this former Defense League (Kaitseliit) building has a different character and a free-planning corner plot. We are used to it, but at the same time there could be something bigger there," Kalm said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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