Architecture

Estonian society has become more architecture-conscious in recent years and architecture is discussed increasingly in public.

The field of architecture has expanded and now encompasses all general aspects of the living environment, such as planning, interior and landscape architecture, structural engineering, urban planning and art in public spaces.

The rise of architecture has largely been due to the Union of Estonian Architects and Estonian Centre of Architecture, as well as other partners.
 

Developing of the built environment is regulated by four ministries:

  • Ministry of Culture – protection of architectural heritage, architecture as a field of art, supervision of the implementation of architectural policy;
  • Ministry of the Environment – environmental protection, landscape protection; 
  • Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications – construction and housing;
  • Ministry of Finance – spatial planning, regional development and local government matters, management of the state real estate.

The Ministry of Culture and the Government Office together with a broad range of partners launched a cross-sectoral Spatial Design Expert Group in July 2017, to tackle the challenge of state-level leadership in spatial development. This Expert Group gave recommendations to the Estonian Government in February 2018 to improve the decision making and implementation processes in the area of spatial design. The final report of the Expert Group included an international study on Spatial Design Leadership in five European states: Ireland, Scotland – UK, Denmark, Vienna – Austria, Flandres – Belgium (pdf (8.6 MB, PDF)).

The Ministry of Culture took part in the interministerial Spatial Design Working Group in 2019 that provided further recommendations for institutional changes to improve the coordination of spatial development in Estonia. The Working Group also devised the principles of quality spatial design (48.54 KB, PDF) and offered an action plan for their cross-sectoral implementation.

Adviser on architecture and design at the Ministry of Culture chairs an Open Method of Coordination (OMC) group of Member States’ experts on High-quality architecture and built environment for everyone. The OMC was launched in 2020 in line with the Davos Declaration "Towards a high-quality Baukultur for Europe" adopted by the European Ministers of Culture in January 2018, which highlights the central role of culture in the built environment. The OMC group will work in an integrated and balanced approach to the built environment while focusing on the specific contributions made by architectural policies and practices. "Quality architecture" in this context is not only defined by aesthetics and functionality but also by its contribution to people’s quality of life and to the sustainable development of our cities and rural areas. The OMC that is administrated by European Commission operates in accordance with the Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022.

Eesti virtuaalpaviljon Veneetsia biennaalil 2014 (illustratsioon: Johanna Jõekalda, Johan Tali, Siim Tuksam)

Education
Higher education in architecture can be acquired at:
  • Estonian Academy of Arts – architectural design, urban planning and interior architecture;
  • Tallinn University of Technology – architectural design, urban planning and landscape architecture;
  • Tallinn University of Applied Sciences – applied architecture;
  • Estonian University of Life Siences – landscape architecture.

The School of Architecture (Arhitektuurikool) is a hobby school where kids between the ages of 7 and 19 explore and create the spatial world. There is no other initiative like it in Estonia and only a handful in Northern Europe and the Baltics. In addition to the weekly lessons held in Tallinn, the School of Architecture also organizes inspiring architecture-related events throughout Estonia, publishes study materials for the promotion of creative thought and provides built environment education. The School of Architecture has been operating since 2011. The school is managed by MTÜ Ruumiharidus.

In 2015-2016 an elective course on architecture and urban planning for high school students was created in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Research as well as Arhitektuurikool. The course „Architecture as Living Environment“ was piloted in nine high schools across Estonia in 2017. Since then, its materials together with implementation guidelines are published at the state curriculum database.

 

Statistics

 

  • About 500 companies operate in the field of architecture in Estonia.

  • Nearly 1,200 people are employed in architectural design, spatial planning, interior architecture and landscape architecture enterprises.

 

Architectural policy

Estonian architectural policy is based on the document of that very name – “Estonian Architectural Policy” – which was approved by the Government of the Republic on 22 October 2002. The goal of architectural policy is to treat the built environment as a component of our national heritage, and to preserve and increase its value. 

What does this document govern?

The document highlights the obligations and responsibilities of the concerned parties.

STATE
The state is responsible for the living environment. Safety, good structure and high construction quality in an environment is a basic right, which the state has to ensure with legislation and procedures.
 
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Planning and administration of construction is an area of responsibility for local government. A local government can lay down and apply local rules (e.g., building regulations), long-term programmes and strategies on architectural planning; it coordinates planning by buying respective services or compiling plans itself. 
 
PRIVATE SECTOR AND NGOS
A customer has the right to commission whatever he wants as long as it does not endanger other people’s lives or violate anyone’s rights. For this, one must follow construction standards and seek approvals for one’s activities. The private sector and NGOs are partners to the public sector in creating an aesthetic living environment. 

What are an architect’s obligations?

The document covers the obligations and responsibilities of an architect’s profession.

Professional Estonian architects are united into a Union of Estonian Architects, which was established in 1922.
 
An architect is a specialist, whose professional competence is determined by the level of his education. Architectural policy has to be supported by educational policy.
 
An architect’s relationship with society is not only centred around aesthetics, but also has a social dimension. The latter is based on the state’s trust and the society’s recognition of an architect as a designer of the living environment. 
 
The quality of the living environment depends on the competence and professional ethics of an architect as the designer of this environment.

What is the objective of architectural policy?  

The document lists six major goals of Estonian architectural policy:

  • to treat the built environment as a component of our national heritage, and to preserve and increase its value;
  • to create possibilities for the development of a living environment that satisfies the inhabitants’ social needs, and is at the same time safe and harmonious;
  • to foster the society’s sense of responsibility for the living environment by promoting architectural education and architecture as a discipline;
  • to support spatial planning, creation of high-class architecture and high-quality construction;
  • to support the development of architectural education, planning, urban construction, construction engineering, and study of construction materials;
  • to take measures in order to preserve architectural heritage as one of the pillars of national cultural history.
 

Mapping and analysing worthwhile architecture of the 20th century
 

During 2008-2013, on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, the National Heritage Board, the Estonian Academy of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Estonian Architecture, the best of 20th-century architecture was selected. A database was compiled with helpful material for local governments and entrepreneurs to draft comprehensive and detailed plans and make suggestions for registering areas of cultural and environmental value. Historians who study architecture can use the database for research. 
 

Main partners

 

A development centre in the field of architecture, the main activities of which are to promote architecture, introduce Estonian architecture abroad, export architecture, and initiate courses and supplemental training in architecture. The architecture centre is the main cooperation partner to the Ministry of Culture in the matters of creative industry and export.
 
Museum of Estonian Architecture
The museum records, preserves and introduces the history and development of Estonian architecture.
 
Estonian Qualifications Authority Kutsekoda  Organises the development of professional standards and coordinates qualification exams.
 
State Real Estate Ltd – RKAS
A state-owned real estate development and management company, which advises the state on real estate matters.

Professional organisations

Community organisations (societies)

 
Uue Maailma Selts, Telliskivi Selts, Kadrioru Selts, Ruumiharidus, Linnalabor, Arhitektuurikool
 

Veronika Valk-Siska
Adviser (Architecture and design)

Phone +372 682 8207
Veronika.Valk@kul.ee

 

Last updated: 25 February 2020