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Estonian architects nominated for EU architecture award

Sindlinahk.
Sindlinahk. Source: Tõnu Tunnel

Sille Pihlak and Siim Tuksam's work "Sindlinahk" in Tartu has been nominated for the EU's Mies van der Rohe Award for Contemporary Architecture. This is the third time Estonian architects have been considered for the prize.

"Sindlinahk" is the official name for the Vaksali tanäv pedestrian bridge and underpasses which consists of a bridge and two tunnels.

"The project is defined by a soft, undulating skin, which pursues the continuity of movement and is covered by 100,000 clinker shingles. It aims to be a landscape landmark to motivate people to walk and cycle by creating an attractive waypoint," the architects said.

"Our aim was to create a building that is user-friendly and creates a high-quality environment. Moving around the city should be both smooth and unobstructed, as well as providing a varied experience. This shortens the sensory distances, and people also walk more. I have heard that people come not only to pass through "Sindlinahka" but also just to look at it," said Tuksam.

He said the design incorporated materials that are local to the region: 100,000 clinker shingles.

Sindlinahk in Tartu. Source: Sille Pihlak

Pihlak cited the continued cooperation with the builders as one of the reasons for the project's success.  

"We dared to experiment with construction solutions that have never been tried in Estonia before. Thanks to load-bearing handrails and post-tensioning, the bridge even looks incredibly slender in places. However, for the first time in Estonia, the frames of the tunnel were built using a ramming technique, which meant that trains, cars and pedestrians did not have to be disrupted," she said.

Pihlak, who heads the Faculty of Architecture of the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA), said the nomination is a sign for local architects to deal with spatial issues on a wider scale. 

"Even if it is only a railway bridge on the surface, it is an example of how architecture can make urban space and infrastructure more inclusive and its inhabitants more active. This is one of the key challenges of 21st century architecture, and one that we are addressing with students every days," she said.

The 40 best architectural works from all over Europe were selected from the shortlist of the awards, which are given out every two years. Finalists will be announced in February.

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Editor: Kaspar Viilup, Helen Wright

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