Karel Truu (Estonian Ac.oArts, Estonia)

Truu, Talinn.jpgKaarel Truu is currently a PhD student in Estonian Academy of Arts, specialized on the restoration works carried out in Tallinn old town during the soviet period. The author has led and carried out field research in several medieval buildings with both academic and professional purposes. The author has worked on different levels and positions in the cultural heritage field since 2008. The author has worked as a conservation specialist in Tallinn City Cultural Heritage Dept. and is currently a conservation specialist in the Estonian National Heritage Board.


Reuse and afterlife of medieval architecture in Tallinn


During the 15th century the center of Tallinn evolved into what it is today. The city had filled the area surrounded by the city wall, the street network and many of the buildings existed in their present form. My paper will shed light on practices related to rebuilding of mediaeval dwelling houses in Tallinn during the centuries following the medieval heyday. Due to the relative poverty and dense mediaeval city fabric the reconstructions and modernizations in the following centuries were minimal and sustainable by today’s standards. Bound by medieval lot proportions and bearing walls the floor plans generally preserved. Parts of the building with distinctive decorative features: pillars, panels also sometimes remained in their original places and were covered with plaster or masonry.

Mediaeval technical solutions were so deeply integrated into the buildings, that mere innovation could not make them disappear. Implementation of new technologies, tiled stoves for example, only meant adding new features and details to the building, while keeping the old. With new building materials, such as steel and concrete becoming available and common rebuilding became more destructive during the 2nd half of the 19th century. Meanwhile interest in antiquities was on the rise: the more artistic or odd pieces of carved stone ended up on the facades as decorative elements. Modest resources and aforementioned habits in rebuilding have made it possible for today’s researchers to discover new medieval details like decorated ceilings and pillars in their original places yearly. The paper is based on archival documents and my experience as a field researcher.