Kõlvart: Regulations prohibit major extension of Estonia Theater building

The mayor of Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart (Center), said that due to regulations, a large-scale extension between the Estonia Theater and Pärnu maantee is impossible.

In response to an inquiry from the Estonian National Commission for UNESCO, Kõlvart said that the city of Tallinn does not believe an extension to the current Estonia Theater building is feasible because of the planning and development constraints.

Kõlvart explained that this is a protected area under the Nature Conservation Act, and according to the statutes of the Tallinn Old Town heritage conservation area, such an extension could not be built there.

Similarly, also the currently drafted protection laws for the Old Town heritage protection area prevent the construction of large structures within the Old Town fortification zone, where the extension would be built.

The Estonian National Commission for UNESCO wanted to know whether proposals for the extension of the Estonia are still under consideration and if so, whether the extension would be substantial enough to justify contacting the UNESCO World Heritage Center. In case of major restoration or new construction on a world heritage site, such notification is necessary.

Kõlvart has made clear his objection to the Estonia expansion

Kõlvart suggests rebuilding the current hall; according to him, the only remedy to the building's problems is an internal reconstruction.

"Rebuilding the theater and stage is the only way to improve the acoustics and resolve the problems caused by the stage's small size," he said.

According to the mayor, this will be also reflected in the special conditions for the preservation of the heritage site.

A joint committee of the city of Tallinn and the National Opera has been discussing the possibility and method of constructing an extension since last year. The summary of their work will be made public in September.

Marion Leppik, a spokesperson for the Estonian National Opera, told ERR that the commission is considering a number of options, including both an extension and a reconstruction of the hall and stage.

"The latter would essentially necessitate the demolition and reconstruction of two-thirds of the interior of the existing building," she explained, "which would destroy much more heritage than the Riigikogu-approved extension."

In reference to UNSECO's involvement, Leppik said that the minister of culture has been participating in the development process since the spring, as these are primarily her areas of competence and authority. According to Leppik, this was also discussed during a June meeting between the Estonia Theater and the minister.

Leppik said that there is still hope that an agreement may be made between the Tallinn National Opera and the state. "It is not the time to draw red lines until the commission has completed its work and has also analyzed and proposed solutions to various legal issues, including UNESCO," she said.

This year also saw the conclusion of a complete volume study (link in Estonian) for the extension of the National Opera building.

According to the authors of the volume analysis, it will be possible to fit an opera and ballet hall of the requisite dimensions in an extension, improve the working conditions of the National Opera and also allow the excavated bastions to be displayed to the public.

The expansion would increase office space and add rehearsal rooms for the orchestra and ballet, stage assembly rooms, costume production, as well as double the number of dressing rooms.

The new opera and ballet hall would have 1,100 seats, an increase from the current 800. The primary stage would be 25 by 25 meters in size.

The detailed volume analysis was based on the space planning for the new building of 44, 554 square meters, which was prepared in 2010 by Timo Tuovila, an expert from the Finnish National Opera.

Tõnu Laigu of QP Architects drew up the preliminary design.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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