Slum and garden suburb

Twentieth century towns include two opposite phenomena, both very typical of an Estonian town: slums and garden suburbs. Just as a hundred years ago most peasants still lived in chimney-less dwellings, the Estonian townsman largely remained a slum-dweller, at least until the early 20th century. The wooden tenement buildings erected in the late 19th and early 20th century have successfully maintained their place in the 21st century city, for the same reason as the Tallinn Old Town. Furthermore, the phenomenon taken as a sign of poverty and misery only a few decades ago, to be abandoned at the first opportunity, is now becoming an all-European architectural rage. The slum is a witness of one significant stage of city culture, and historical wooden architecture certainly deserves to be renovated. Courtyards and attic floors, little local shops and basement workshops provide the slum with a romantic touch, and all this is located in the vicinity of the city centre. These quiet green areas thus appear as much appreciated dwelling areas today.

Moving away from the heart of a city concentrically, the last circle in each town invariably belongs to a typically Estonian garden suburb and areas of small dwelling houses. Maybe no other phenomenon symbolises quite so well an Estonian’s individualism, independence, and sense of well-being. Although they were ideologically unsuitable, the building of private houses played a major part in Soviet construction during the first decades of Soviet power. Depending on when it was built and the natural environment, each residential district has its own unique appearance, primarily determined by its architecture. From the European point of view, the most fascinating settlement area in Tallinn is Nõmme (a separate town between 1926–1940). This is a parkland area with a dense street network and charming architecture of small low buildings.

In recent years, the extensive development of the town in the form of various real estate projects has again intensified. The idyllic setting of a long-inhabited garden suburb, however, is increasingly evaporating. Residential districts with terraced and detached houses for the middle classes, still taking shape, are situated alongside the elitist villa architecture; the kitch-abundant residences for the nouveau-riche are contrasted with Minimalist form asceticism: neo-modernist villas where the architecture and the interiors are in perfect harmony, proving the existence of wealthy educated clients.

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