Sunday, June 12, 2011

A bit of historical contrast

One thing that is a bit unusual about being in a former Soviet country like Estonia is that the architecture from that period provides such a stark contrast with anything built before or since.  Downtown Tallinn is now filled with modern glass office buildings.  Beside it is the Old Town, with buildings and fortifications dating to the thirteenth century.  And then, scattered around the edges are these hulking concrete buildings that are mostly falling down.  One of these is the Linnahall, pictured above.

In the Old Town, just a few hundred meters away, city walls built more than five hundred years ago are still holding up remarkably well.  The Linnahall, a concert hall built in 1980 for the Moscow Olympics, is already disused, abandoned and falling apart.  How can a 500 year-old building still be in great shape while a 30-year-old building is falling apart?  It is astonishing, but I think it comes down to two things.  First, of course, is the shoddy construction.  No stone and concrete building should be crumbling the way some of these are after such a short time.  Second, people just don't care enough about most of these buildings, or have the resources available, to maintain them.

 And so, the Linnahall, and other Soviet-era apartments and buildings crumble away.  During the Olympics, Tallinn was the site of sailing competitions.  Today the Linnahall, overlooking the Baltic Sea, is a place where locals hang out on a sunny day to soak up the sun while drinking a couple bottles of beer.  The rest of the waterfront land around this complex, for large distances on both sides, is just abandoned lots.  In most places, a waterfront area like this would be some of the most desirable property in town.  Not here, but who knows, maybe some day...

At least one thing the Linnahall provides is a good canvas for the city's graffiti artists.  Nobody seems to mind too much, in any case...

1 comment:

  1. There is always two sides to any coin - and to any city or town. Nice to see/witness and appreciate although the contrast in Tallinn is quite amazing. Looks like you are having a great trip!