| Print |

Modern Movement or Boom Years?

Two were the options, when formulating in late 2007 the programme for our second workshop, this time in Estonia. The first option was to focus on the Villa at 2a Löuna street in Estonia’s most famous summer seaside resort, in Pärnu, built by architects Olev Siinmaa and Anton Soans between 1933 and 1936. 

It is an outstanding example of a functionalist private house from the Modern Movement in Estonia, a listed monument, which after it has been recently sold to a new owner is now in the process to be conserved. So it would have been the perfect moment to assist in this process by developing in the workshop an independent proposal for its conservation, to discuss with the authorities and the planners. The alternative option was to focus on Pärnu.KEK, a megastructure at the periphery of Pärnu, planned and built in the 1970ies by Andres Ringo and Toomas Rein.

This structure combines an industrial section and a village, showing a kind of redefinition of the industrial villages proposed since the early 19th Century for instance by the utopian thinkers Charles Fourier or Robert Owen. In soviet times it was not only much appreciated for its urban and architectural qualities, it was also considered by the inhabitants a kind of oasis for the particular living conditions it offered. Pärnu.KEK today, in post-communist times, is in the long and not easy process to be listed as a protected monument. The same time the complex needs repair, for instance of the surfaces of the concrete, and updating such as of its thermal qualities. These are under way but not under control. In addition, alterations have to be feared, also of the entire lay out. The first option, the 1930ies villa, was basically requesting to do a detailed analysis, to formulate a conservation concept and to choose the best techniques to conserve the Modern Movement monument. Whereas the second option presented us with a different set of problems, and in particular the questions how to deal with its typology, the megastructure, a typology today appreciated only by very few, and how to respond to its physical status and its requests to be repaired, to be updated to today’s standards, and to be added to. 
We took the decision against the option 1 and for Pärnu.KEK, when meeting in Wroclaw, in Poland, to prepare the workshop in detail. Both the alterations of many of the Modern Movement buildings we encountered, in particular, in the context of the housing estate of the “Werkbundausstellung”, 1931,

but also the careful work of conservation which after long struggles at least Hans Scharoun’s “Ledigenheim”, 1929 ,

recently had received spoke in favour of option 1. But the “Zespol Mieszkaniowo-Uslugowy”, a housing megastructure built on top of a shopping mall, close to Placu Grunwaldzkim, planned by Jadwiga Hawrylak-Grabowska in the 1960ies,


brought the decision. Not only, that its qualities are not any more appreciated, and it is an desolate state, it also runs the risk not to be listed and reworked but to be completely neglected and replaced. 

Two are the more general arguments which stand behind this decision for working on Pärnu.KEK, the soviet oasis, in post-communist times. The first argument is a cultural one and refers to the fact that we consider our built environment and the monuments in the process to be listed, but also the ones already listed, all but equally. 

No doubt, our architectural and urban heritage mirrors the development of our ideas, our culture, our society, it is an important part of our european history. This includes ‚monuments of high culture', a medieval castle or a Renaissance church, as much as the Industrial Revolution and its ‚sites of the every-day live’, its working places, as well as its mass housing – at least in theory. In reality also the monument protection was and still is often a child of its time. To name only one example from about 60 years ago: after the Second World War the city of Cologne soon decided to repair, to reintegrate, even to reconstruct the famous romanesque churches, heavily damaged in the war. The same time the gates to the Hohenzollern Bridge, although after the war still intact. were destroyed, because built originally in the 19th Century, in the no appreciated historicist style. Considering the more recent past, and specifically monuments from the 20th Century, similar divergences can be found. There is more acceptance to be encountered for the heroic times of the Modern Movement, with exceptions of course, such as Otto Haesler’s Siedlung Blumlägerfeld in Celle which only recently has been torn down.


Monuments of the post-war period, however, are often much more in danger, The list of endangered buildings from this period is endless, as is the list of destroyed buildings longer. Here just a short list, focussing exclusively on Berlin. Among the destroyed objects we find: Baumgarten’s project for the Bewag-administration 1969,


Müther’s ‚Ahornblatt’, 1970,


and the former „Palace Hotel“, 1978.


In discussion has long been the destruction also of the „Schimmelpfennig Haus“, 1958.


Also this short list indicates, that, of course, the ‚sites of the every-day live’ are running many more risks than the ‚monuments of high culture'. To get aware of the prejudices which are here inherent was the first task of our workshop. 

This leads to the second important argument, which let us decide to work on a megastructure from the 1970ies. It is an economic and an ecological argument. This concerns primarily non-listed monuments, but does more and more matter also for listed monuments. It is a double folded argument. Seen from the point of view of the public and the political economy, the argument is this: our built environment is a valuable capital which we should keep, invest into and augment. Whereas the private owner tends first of all to understand the same built environment as a form of financial investment, which should not loose money but assure acceptable interest rates.

Karl Ganser, the former managing director of the IBA Emscher Park, has formulated the argument in terms of the public and political economy. There would be a fundamental need „.... to develop an ecological and economical strategy of ‚qualitative growth’, „or in the terminology of the Rio environment summit, ... a ‚sustainable regional development’, a strategy, we absolutely need to implement.“ The basic elements of both, the urbanistic and architectural, and the ecological and economical strategy, are according Ganser: „no further area-covering with buildings, but the transition to a cycle economy in land utilization; prolongation of the operational life-span of buildings and production facilities through maintenance, modernization and adaption to new uses; new construction and extensions only according to ecological principles; transformation of production processes ..., aiming for environmentally friendly products and production methods.“ To similar conclusions come Uta Hassler and Nikolas Kohler, on the basis of analyses of the costs occuring when keeping our built environment, when repairing it, ugrading it, and adding to it, compared to the costs for demolishing the same built environment and building it anew. These analyses show most clearly, that for the political economy to build anew in close to all cases cost much more than to improve and use the existing buildings. 

The other point of view, the one of the private owners, most recently has been taken eloquently by Martin Hofer, a professional adviser of owners of housing estates. Focussing specifically on the buildings from the so called boom years, the years around the 1970ies, when about 1/3 of the environment built since the Second Word War has been erected, he stressed primarily two facts. Firstly, that housing estates of the boom years are very little appreciated by the market. Secondly, how much maintenance especially these estates today request. In one sentence, the rent income would become less and lesser, whereas the expenses would continously raise. The inevitable consequence would be, that private owners would need to abandon in the near future minimum 1/3 of the housing estates of the boom years.

To understand these diverging interests of the public and private better, with the aim, however, to protect the architectural and urban heritage of the boom years, at least the examples of a higher quality such as Pärnu.KEK became the second task of the Intensive Programm which will be introduced on the following pages.


It is on these grounds, that students and professors coming from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, School of Architecture in Copenhagen, the Fachhochschule Frankfurt, Studiengang Architektur, the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia in Tallinn in this second Intensive Programme year have focussed on a soviet oasis, the Pärnu.KEK, a not yet listed monument of the 1970ies. The primary aim has been to develop strategies to protect and to investigate techniques to conserve this monument as well as to think about how to introduce here progress. 

For more information about the premises, the conceptual approach and the general structure of this Intensive Programme the interested reader might be referred to the following article „To replace or to rework? Pärnu.KEK – a soviet oasis, in post communist times“. Mart Kalm will than concentrate on Pärnu.KEK’s history and on the current discussion about how protection and progress can here interact. Finally the Intensive Programme’s specific structure and the tasks the students have worked on will be introduced by Stefan Heßling. The second part of the brochure is all given to the presentation of the student’s work, in part of the preparative work, but in particular of the workshop-work. Of great importance for this work were the reviews, talks, and guided tours, renowned experts from Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Slovakia and Sweden gave or participated in. Those talks, which we received in written form and well documented, we have included here in full length.  

An undertaking such as this Intensive Programme requests considerable energies. As the coordinator of the Intensive Programme I would like, in the name of all participants, to thank all who dedicated much of their energy to this Intensive Programme. In the first place I would like to thank the European Community, Education and Culture, Socrates Programme, Erasmus, for having accepted our proposal for this Intensive Programme, funding generously much of our work; further all presidents, directors, and deans of the participating schools and departments, from Copenhagen, Frankfurt am Main, Leuven, and Tallinn for their generous support of the programme. 

My thanks go equally to the equipe which organized the pre-workshop in Wroclaw. Jadwiga Urbanik, coordinator
 at the architecture museum and head of docomomo Poland, and Ania Kolodzinska and Iwona Borkowska, both students at the Wroclaw University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, and participants of our first workshop in Copenhagen, were great hosts. Our thanks go to them, to have shared their knowledge with us. Many thanks go to the equipe, which organized the Pärnu workshop with a lot of energy and much dedication. The Eesti Kunstiakadeemia in Tallinn was a wonderful host, my special thanks go to its rector professor Signe Kivi. Mart Kalm and Maris Suits had selected a most challenging object to investigate, as well as had prepared, with a team of students, the workshop in all details. Perfectly arranged was the setting, and in particular the studio and auditorium space, as well as the most informative field trips. But certainly the aspect we appreciated most, was the great atmosphere of cooperation our Estonian hosts were able to create.

I would also like very much to thank all the experts, which found time to join us, to sit on reviews, to come with us on our field trips and to introduce us to their work, to Andres Ringo and Toomas Rein, to Karri Tiigissoon and Nele Rent, to Agnes Cailliau, Elke Mittmann, Henrieta Moravčíková, and Sanja Peter, to Saija Varjonen and Jussi Mattila, as well as to all cultural institutions and private owners, for having invited us to their sites, and for having provided the studio with most helpful material for the workshop.

I would like to thank Stephan Bohlender, who has been in charge of the e-learning platform, for his attentive work, Jan Przerwa for having designed and curated our website and Stefan Heßling both for having helped much in the general organisation and for having coedited and designed this brochure. Last but not least, many thanks and compliments go to my colleagues from the partner schools, to Mart Kalm, to Luc Verpoest, together with Barbara van der Wee and Sara van Rompaey, and to Ola Wedebrunn, and – very importantly - to all the participating students for having contributed to the workshop with great commitment and even greater enthusiasm, beforehand, during and after.


Intensive Programme 2002-2005: www.reworking-the-factory.org                                                       Web Development: Jan Przerwa, August 25, 2016