Porto Franco

Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Porto Franco
Pre-selection architecture competition: 2015, 3rd prize
Size: 88,0000 m2


Revitalising the coastline of Tallinn and bringing the city to the sea without interruption has been one of the greatest challenges for the city during the period of re-independence. With each period of growth the city has slowly edged closer to the coast and as such the city centre has now extended through the Rotermann quarter to the edge of the Admirality Pool – the nearest water frontage for the active and functional city centre.

In truth, the edge of the Admiralty Pool and surroundings have already been populated by mammoth mono-functional buildings, which although not directly connected to the city, have the primary purpose of catching tourists from the harbour heading towards the city centre. One of the largest challenges in bringing the city to the seafront is the rapid realisation of major functions and planning while also preserving the character and appearance of the city.

The main aim of the KOKO design is the continuation of the dense and multifaceted city environment – a tradition which, during the Soviet modernist zoning craze and the shopping centre capitalism of the past 20 years, has been forgotten.
The basis of a good city environment is the street – a space that functions to connect the activities situated along it and which in turn provides the necessary density. The primary concerns with streets, and therefore cities, is weather and safety – problems whose various solutions provide cities all around the world with their distinct image. The first challenge in bringing the gate of Tallinn to the seafront is that the northerly summer sea breeze is replaced during the seven month long autumn-winter with a rainy storm, making visiting the seafront difficult. The solution is to cover the footpaths, which thanks to the pleasant “weather” conditions this provides, creates a denser and livelier street-environment, which in turn helps small businesses and shops.

The second problem – safety – cannot simply be resolved by building a roof. There has to be some logic behind ensuring the use of the city space 24/7. At this point, the second aspect of the KOKO design – diversity – comes into play. Cities with high-rise offices at the centre become empty after the workday and un-city-like and dangerous. In order to create a more sustainable city environment, the first and second floors of buildings are designed with businesses in mind and a line of restaurants and cafes are planned along the promenade of the Admirality Pool – it would be a crime to let such a view go to waste.

Due to its location, Porto Franco is one of the symbolic buildings of the Tallinn of the future, and so KOKO decided to unite the entire quarter with one architectural style, reflecting the coarseness of the white limestone coast and opalescence of the sea in the summer sun. Close up and from street level, the connections between the buildings and the different themes in the quarter’s inner streets make it easily useable and it becomes an experience in itself.