Reviving a cotton factory in North Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Phoenix Land AS
Commission: 2006
Size: 100,000 m2

The textiles industry was the most important industry in Estonia up until the First World War. In the second half of the 19th century, the Kreenholm Factory in Narva was the leading cotton manufacturer. Before the turn of the century, the cotton industry was doing so well that a large modern cotton spinning and weaving factory was built in Tallinn on the road to the Kopli peninsula in 1898. The buildings were erected on an empty area of forest and wetlands.

In addition to the gigantic main building, a number of wooden living quarters were built on Sitsi Street in the first years of the 20th century. In 1913, an Art Nouveau style schoolhouse was added to the ensemble. A small Orthodox Church that is operating to this day was also built in 1915. All this together forms the historically valuable Sitsi urban settlement.

The 250-metre long main building of the factory was built using red brick and presumably all the larger brick factories around Tallinn were producing bricks just for this project. Almost 2,000 people worked at the factory before the First World War producing 20 million metres of cotton fabric annually. The factory was destroyed in the Second World War only to be rebuilt afterwards. In 1965, more than 3,000 workers produced more than 50 million metres of cotton fabric and 45.5 million spools of cotton thread. The successor of the historic factory, Baltex 2000 ceased production in 2006 when price-sensitive textile production moved to Asia.

The abandoned old factory building is an industrial heritage site destined to be reconstructed as an apartment building with service and retail spaces on the ground floor and spacious loft-style apartments with high ceilings on the upper floors. The extensions from the Soviet era will be demolished to place the stately and powerful form of the old building in focus. The old boiler house at the side of the main square belongs to the same ensemble, so this will be reconstructed with a striking roof extension. To create a new ensemble, a 210-metre residential high-rise will be built next to the long low factory building according to the thematic planning of Tallinn’s high-rises. This will become one of Tallinn’s landmarks when approaching the city from Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland without interfering with the trademark skyline of the Old Town. In addition to the reconstruction of the factory buildings, apartment houses have also been planned on the old factory area. A green area along the former railway track will connect the whole quarter to the city centre.