Awakening a backyard to new life
The ship model testing basin for the Tallinn University of Technology’s Small Craft Competence Centre in Kuressaare
The sun was already low, traffic was light, and home was still three hours away, including the ferry ride. The car radio was silent and I was thinking about this article. The idea of writing about the recently completed ship model testing facility in Kuressaare (the capital of Saaremaa Island) as a project away from the centre seemed clear enough as a theme on the way out to the island from Tallinn. The next morning in Kuressaare I realized the difference of scales. As the city architect of Kuressaare, I had worked with the topic of location, trying to find connections that would support the central core of the city, city centre and the specific block. In Kuressaare, the difference between centre and periphery can be measured in house numbers, in streets. For five years, I saw how a finger pointed on a map in Tallinn and a wistful exhalation of the word “Kuressaare” could mean a bad investment. On the other hand, with thorough preparatory work done on location, it could be a very good investment.
The birth of the ship model testing facility was a success story in its own right, a duet of consciously made decisions and chance. The Tallinn University of Technology Kuressaare College moved this year, on its 15th anniversary. Appropriately enough for a small college in a provincial town, the last decade was spent in a faceless late 1960s administrative building on a quiet side street. The school’s ambition wasn’t limited to that external image, though. The college evolved out of the Islands Institute, which was established to apply research findings for preserving, restoring and developing particular heritage of the islands. Abstract goals, but thinking about the nature of the Small Craft Competence Centre today, also an homage.
A step closer to moving. In the course of enthusiastic pursuit of their speciality, the school developed a need to build a small craft testing basin. It would be for model ships, but still 40 metres long. The 40 metres soon became 60, and it didn’t seem possible to join the basin with the school building either by demolishing the garages or going underground. Not even a giant investment would have removed the aura of the Soviet-era academic building, anyway. The location was still the wrong one.
I remember a telephone call. Yes, no formula will allow the basin to fit. I had been waiting for the deputy director of the college to make that admission for several weeks. Thinking on my feet, I proposed a location 300 metres