The Kai Art Center opens in a renovated submarine factory in Tallinn

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Tallinn-based KAOS Architects leads a sensitive restoration of an avant garde industrial building by the sea for the new Kai Art Center. Once a submarine-making warehouse for the Russian Tsar, the concrete building with 6m ceiling heights and gracefull...

Tallinn-based KAOS Architects leads a sensitive restoration of an avant garde industrial building by the sea for the new Kai Art Center. Once a submarine-making warehouse for the Russian Tsar, the concrete building with 6m ceiling heights and gracefully arching roof was an ideal spot for the previously nomadic contemporary arts organisation.Photography: Tõnu Tunnel. Courtesy Kai Art Center, TallinnPhotography: Tõnu Tunnel.

‘It’s a small building,’ Laansoo says of their new digs, ‘but it’s very important for the city. During Soviet times Noblessner was a restricted area, so you couldn’t access the sea, but now people can come here and feel that natural connection with the ocean.’ Outside, children are jumping off the edge of the pier and skateboarding across the smooth new paving stones of the public realm. Soon there will be two restaurants opening up on the ground floor of the building.

While architecturally advanced for its time, the building still required a ‘total makeover’ says Aule. ‘In some places you could see through the wall.’ Luckily, KAOS are well versed in the restoration of Estonia’s heritage buildings – and on good terms with the Tallinn Planning Department. Aule describes the whole restoration process as a ‘dialogue’.‘The company [BLRT Grupp] were looking for an idea for the building for three years.

 

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