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Tartu to start preparing for the international architectural competition for the Downtown Cultural Centre

Tartu City Government Press Release

Südalinna kultuurikeskus

14 September / 13 September 2021, the Riigikogu confirmed the ranking of nationally-important cultural buildings, with the first on the list being Tartu’s Downtown Cultural Centre. The decision by the Riigikogu gives Tartu the opportunity to receive support from the funds of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia for the establishment of a cultural centre and to begin preparing an international architectural competition.

According to the Mayor of Tartu, Urmas Klaas, the decision by the Riigikogu finally gives certainty that the Downtown Cultural Centre will become a reality. ‘The idea for the Downtown Cultural Centre, which combines two cultural institutions that are essential to Tartu – the Tartu Art Museum and the Tartu City Library – did not come about overnight. This building has been planned in Tartu for nearly 20 years, but it has been dreamed of for much longer,’ said the Mayor. ‘We are facing a great deal of work, consisting of many analyses and studies, in order to thoroughly prepare an international architectural competition in cooperation with the Union of Estonian Architects,’ Klaas added.

The major activities planned for the end of 2021 and the first half of 2022 are reaching an agreement on the financing scheme with the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the completion of analyses on halls, galleries and parking, the preparation of special conditions for heritage protection, the commissioning of an expert assessment on landscaping, a gathering of ideas regarding the building and the functions of the surrounding environment, drawing up the final spatial plan for the building, and drawing up the conditions and procurement documentation for the architectural competition. In cooperation with the Union of Estonian Architects, an international architectural competition will be announced in 2022.

According to the comprehensive plan for the City of Tartu, the Cultural Centre will rise in the City Centre Park, having been chosen as the location after many years of discussions. The comprehensive plan allows the Cultural Centre to use up to half of the park’s area. The international architectural competition will provide answers to the question of what the Centre will look like and how it will fit in with the existing environment.

According to Tartu City Architect Tõnis Arjus, an important part of the architectural competition is the analysis of the green value of the current green area and the proposals on how to increase the ecological diversity of the area. ‘The Cultural Centre, which is connected to the City Centre Park, will become an integrated public space together with the surrounding green area and the nearby Emajõgi River. An additional objective in the designing of the area is consideration of the entire life cycle, which means that the process of setting up the Centre and its subsequent use will be maximally sustainable. This requires, for example, the use of local building materials, but the designing of the Cultural Centre makes a significant contribution to the heart of the city, which is conveniently accessible by foot, bike and public transport,’ added Arjus.

The Downtown Cultural Centre, where the Tartu Art Museum and Tartu City Library will both find a new home, will allow for the exhibition of brilliant works of Estonian art that have thus far remained unseen, while also bringing world-class guest exhibitions to southern Estonia. Modern and diverse opportunities for the Tartu City Library will bring literature to the fingertips of everyone and promote non-formal education, lifelong learning, and social activities. The Downtown Cultural Centre will become an environment where synergy between fields and creators is created.


Additional information: Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas, Tel: 736-1221, 513-5145; City Architect Tõnis Arjus, Tel: 5304-6148.

Last changed 14.09.2021