Soviet-era construction quality hampers national library refurbishment work

The renovation process of Estonia's National Library (Rahvusraamatukogu) has been held up due to unforeseen issues surrounding its original construction, some of which has been of less high of a standard as previously thought.

The library building, on Tõnismägi, in central Tallinn, was opened in 1993, by which time Estonia was independent, but construction work had begun in 1985. The national library had prior to that been housed in the Estonian Knighthood House (Eestimaa rüütelkonna hoone) on Toompea.

The Tõnismäe 2 building, designed in the brutalist style, is also seemingly somewhat of a Potemkin village inasmuch as it is not quite as sturdy as previously thought from its external appearance.

Extra work will thus be needed to shore this up.

This means that the facility will not open to the public for another three years, a delay of around six months.

Work (see gallery) started last summer, and the project will cost just under €60 million.

Janne Andersoo, library director, told ERR that: "One of the biggest issues relates to the frontage facade, where a significant lack of reinforced concrete, which holds the structure up, has become apparent."

"In actuality, it transpired out that the project and the real picture did not tally, so some re-working has to be done," he went on.

Once the work is finalized and the library reopens, now likely in 2025, it should be the largest building open to the public in Estonia, excluding shopping malls, Andresoo added.

"People who are looking for an alternative, who are looking for silence and concentration, can do so this way, since the library must be the standard-bearer of this value. Those who want to convene here to do something different, will also have that option," he went on.

Of changes which are known about, the interior will appear more spacious simply thanks to the simple expedient of painting ceilings white, rather than the previous black.

Even here, there were some surprises – while the original design too called for a white interior ceiling, removing the black overcoat revealed gold paintwork instead.

The refurbished national library is also to host a separate floor for children and young people, plus a restaurant and a conference center. 

The National Archives of Estonia (Rahvusarhiiv) is also being relocated into the library building, which will include a special storage room for film, kept at -5C.

A movie theater is also to be installed to play those films in the archive and from other sources, Maarja Savan, marketing manager of the National Archives, told ERR.

The main lobby will also be part extended to the adjacent street, and will be open round-the-clock.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', interviewer Hanneli Rudi.

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