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Maarjamäe – simple solutions to complicated life

TUULI KÖLLER

01.10.2005

Pähkli St. housing:
Architect: JVR
Authors: Kalle Vellevoog, Velle Kadalipp
Structural design: Mart Kooser (KPME)
Design: 2004
Completed: 2005

Sarapuu St. housing:
Architect: Architects Muru & Pere
Authors: Urmas Muru, Peeter Pere
Structural design: Kuupmeeter
Design: 2003
Completed: 2004-2005

Tallinn - about 400 000 residents, a couple of bus stops or less than a 10-minute-drive (unless it’s the rush hour) from the downtown. Maarjamäe. Downtown or suburb? The cosy privacy of deep rich green gardens or the same old anonymous urban environment, once again?

What is what
To define something you’ll have to think about the underlying basic notions - to consider, sometimes to re-consider their expanations. For clarity.
Suburbia, or the outskirts, to use less complicated language. Synonyms, or maybe not? Is there any difference? I would say there is. The outskirts is just an area at the rim of the city, a buffer region between the city and the surrounding space, easily definable in the definite physical space. It will be just the outskirts, no matter what the typology of the buildings is, or whether it will become the downtown or maybe an uptown depending on the growth or shrinking of the city.

The definition of suburbia, on the other hand, has always been more theoretical than spacial, in my mind, also more and more degraded in our life of blurring concepts. Suburbia is not that much and not any more defined by its location, it can be characterised more as an (urban) spacial unit of extremely simple, dull, predictable and repeating inner structure.
Explaining and defining urban situations and structures generally tends to be more about explaining the inner structure and build-up of these units than their connections with actual spacial location, either in the city or concerning the city.
Some distinctions are not clear-cut, which makes the others sharper on their background. Not that spacial any more, but rather essential boundaries, which are invisible and the more painfully relevant for us.
Suburbia as a certain urban element, or claiming to be, at the outskirts, by it or in the countryside. It is a space not creating clarity, rather causing confusion. No, it is not that there were no logic in the location of streets or the houses didn’t have numbers. It is not confusion in the actual space, but the impossibility to define yourself with the help of the surrounding space. Thus the main characteristic of suburbian space is the lack of clarity so characteristic of any space. Anonymous, closed, inward, dispassionate, repeated and sometimes flagrantly cheap solutions are anything but clearly identifiable. You’ll feel estranged, away, as if you were constantly visiting someone and didn’t know what is allowed and what isn’t. Deja vu –

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