Search graduate:

Jõnn Sooniste

  • Faculty of Architecture
  • Architecture and Urban Design
  • ma
  • Between public and media library- searching for balance
  • Tutor(s): Martin Melioranski, Raul Kalvo
View from the Laagna street

This thesis observes the development of the Tallinn Central Library
throughout the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. The
emphasis is on how the purpose of the public library has changed
and how technology has innovated the way it works today. This
insight inspired me to create a Lasnamäe public library strategy
proposal which resulted in a project in Laagna.

Within the past 20 years there has been a shift in how free time is
used throughout the day. People now spend a large amount of their
time viewing screens. Today Estonian youth spend about five and a
half hours per day using the internet and almost 100% of them use
it every day. Different mediums have an impact which can be felt in
almost every aspect of our lives. However, not everyone can manage
in this new environment. There are problems which society has to
face because of the impact of digital mediums framing our lives.
Not everyone is computer literate and there are disparities in what
we consider basic computer skills. As a result, libraries have started
to teach and give help on how to use the internet, smartphones,
read emails etc. Secondly, having a meaningful conversation is a
big part of human experience and affects how people behave.
Social media hinders this process. Digital devices affect our ability
to empathise with others and make us lonelier. Having places to
meet and spend time together has become essential and necessary
– especially in dense housing environments. In Estonia cold winters
and short summers put a lot of pressure on enclosed public spaces.
Therefore, demand for libraries is even higher.

Within the past 20 years Estonia’s public libraries have (or Estonia’s
national library has) gone through a jump towards digitizing it’s
working tools and ways to communicate with its users. Technology
does help us to access and reflect on knowledge at a much faster
pace. This way we are not only consuming information but we actually
contribute to its making. Furthermore, technology helps us to make
this process faster and more productive. Step by step libraries have
understood this and have decided to integrate different mediums
within their premises. Now they have computer rooms, innovation
labs with 3D printers, laser cutters and hands on tools, game console
play areas etc. The library has changed but that does not mean that
books are not important. In Estonia literature is still the main reason
for library users to visit them. Now libraries have decisions to make:
should they have more new literature, tablets, computers, board
games, etc. All of which have also a spatial impact on how libraries
function and therefore affect our public space.

Today libraries are popular public spaces for everyone. This
has not always been the case. There has been a development
toward opening libraries for the people. Due to this libraries have
become instrumental in city planning. Libraries help us to define
centrality and public nodes. This offers an opportunity to use the
library as an instrument for a social paradigm shift. Tallinn is one
of the most segregated capital cities in Europe. Gentrification and
suburbanization taking place simultaneously. Large housing areas
around Tallinn are lagging behind in development. Strong local
community is a key to change the status quo and a library could be
one institution to administer, host and inform public organisation.
Therefore new library buildings in Lasnamäe micro regional centres
could be one way to even out the quality of liveability between
different Tallinn districts.

Focusing on the project of Tallinn Central Library Laagna Branch
gave me a possibility to understand the practical aspects of the
previously mentioned concerns. Secondly, my goal was to create a
library which would fit in to the surrounding urban fabric. The Laagna
location had a decisive role in developing the final design solution.
The idea was to create a public building giving people a place to go which is close to their homes. This is a much needed quality in
Lasnamäe in general. The situation is complicated as apartment
buildings in Lasnamäe do not form traditional quarters and there are
no typical street fronts. People walk through courtsyards, cars are
being parked wherever possible. View shafts are short and framed
by surrounding buildings. In this environment the visual quality of
Laagna Street emerges as a main street which cuts through dense
living areas creating a silhouette of the area. It was important that
this quality would also reach library visitors. The library opens up on
the south side of the street and has a glass facade along the whole
façade of the library reading room. I envision that a project like this
would make a difference in Lasnamäe and offer a possibility to see
Laagna in a new way.

Site plan Laagna street level
Site plan Laagna center level
Elevation from Vikerlase quarters
Section/ Elevation from Laagna street

View from the library yard