YCAA Study Tour of Tallinn, Estonia; Part 1: the Old Town

By Jaanika Reinvald-Colley, YCAA (Class of 2014-15).

The three-day Tallinn study tour started on the evening of Friday 7 September when we met at the Pegasus restaurant, in the building formerly known as the Writers’ House, built in 1963 to fill a gap created in the bombing of Tallinn during WWII. This happened to coincide with Tallinn’s marathon celebrations and as a result the city centre was entirely packed with people.


Tallinn Old Town

Our first day in Tallinn was spent on getting to know the Old Town. We started the day on Vabaduse Square at 10 o’clock where we were welcomed by one of our guides, Sabina Kaukis, an MA Conservation Studies student from the Estonian Academy of Arts [EEA]. From Sabina we learned about the early history of Estonia and Tallinn.

Being a small country in a strategic location on the shores of the Baltic Sea, Estonian history is one of subjugation and serfdom. Starting with the Northern Crusades in the Middle Ages, Estonia became a battleground for centuries where Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland fought their many wars over controlling the important geographical position of the country as a gateway between East and West.

Tallinn was founded in the 10th Century, but only at the beginning of the 13th Century did the Danes establish it as a fortified city. In 1285, the city joined the Hanseatic League and became a junction for organized trade on the Baltic Sea. In 1346 the city was transferred to the Teutonic Order. After the collapse of the Teutonic Order, the city fell under Swedish rule in 1561 and finally became part of the Tsarist Russia in 1710 during the Great Northern War. It was Peter I who restored the ancestral privileges of the established German community in Tallinn. The architecture in the old town, both upper and lower, to a great extent stems from the medieval times, 13th-14th Century and represent the history of the rulers.

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The ‘Tall Hermann’ tower (far right) as part of Toompea Castle, Tallinn, with the roof of the Parliament Building seen above the battlements. Source: Visit Estonia.

 


The Upper Town

Toompea, the upper town in Tallinn, has always been the administrative part of the country. The tallest tower of the original castle, the Tall Hermann, is used for the daily hoisting of the flag ceremony and forms a corner of the current parliament building. Opposite the parliament building is the Nevski Cathedral, the most highly decorated Orthodox Church in Tallinn. Unfortunately we did not have time to go and see the interior of the church as by then Toompea was inundated with cruise ship tourists. At the viewing platforms we saw the lower town, together with its red roofs, medieval church towers, narrow winding streets, public and burgher buildings.

Next stop was St Mary’s Cathedral (aka Dome Church), where we met Varje Ounapuu, a conservation student from the EAA, who showed us around the church and talked about the altarpiece conservation project that she had participated in. Made by the famous Estonian sculptor and carver, Christian Ackermann, the altarpiece is of particularly high value and various departments from the EAA were involved with the works.

 

The Lower Town

From the Dome Church we took the “Short Leg” down to the lower town, to St Nicholas Cathedral. Dr Anneli Randla took us around the former church. It was partially destroyed in Soviet bombing of Tallinn in WWII and has been since restored as part of the Art Museum of Estonia, mostly displaying ecclesiastical art from the Middle Ages.

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Dr Anneli Randla (centre) explaining about the Hermann Rode altarpiece conservation project at St Nicholas Cathedral. Find out more about it here. Source: Jaanika Reinvald-Colley

After an extended lunch break we met again at 6pm for an evening walking tour of the lower town. Dr Riin Alatalu, the head of ICOMOS Estonia, showed us the medieval urban fabric of Tallinn, including the town wall, Town Hall, the oldest pharmacy in Estonia, merchants’ craftsmen’s guild halls, and the domestic architecture of the merchants’ houses. Winding in and out of buildings, at one point marching into a restaurant’s rest room to see the original well and marvel at the painted decoration on the wooden ceiling beams, we got a good feel for the building plots, many of which survive virtually intact from the 13th-14th Centuries.

Having absorbed the architecture of the ruling classes we were ready for the second day at the open air museum, to see how the Estonian peasants have lived through the ages.

Further write-ups of the study tour of Tallinn will follow in the coming weeks.

The YCAA would like to thank the numerous local ‘hosts’ in Tallinn who gave up their time to show YCAA alumni around the city and its heritage, alumni who attended the study tour, and especially Jaanika Reinvald-Colley who organised and facilitated the visit. 

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York’s Railway Heritage

As a prelude to the York Conservation Alumni Association’s 2018 AGM on Saturday 14 July 2018, a healthy turnout of almost twenty alumni joined John Ives for a fascinating walking tour of some of York’s leading railway heritage.

Despite the unfortunate timing of the tour to coincide with the sweltering summer heat, the height of the tourist season, impatient traffic, and, worse still, streams of jovial punters heading to York Racecourse for the ‘John Smith’s Cup’, we were clearly in dependable hands.  John Ives is a Conservation Accredited Architect and a partner of York-based PPIY Architects Limited, as well as Chair of the City of York Council’s Conservation Area Appraisal Panel.  He has also been a leading figure in railway heritage for over the 40 years, due to having worked for British Rail’s Architects Department until its demise with privatisation in 1995, and as co-author of the York Station Conservation Development Strategy (2012).

In John’s introductory, and richly-illustrated, presentation, held in a spacious seminar room above Platform 8 of Thomas Presser’s highly impressive Grade II* Railway Station of 1877, it was evident that the Strategy Report of 2012 was a detailed audit of the city’s railway heritage, which spans nearly 200 years and numerous sites.  Who knew, for example, that the city has had three central railway stations in total, or that one of the country’s oldest extant water tower (built in 1839, Grade II listed) is tucked away in one of the station’s car parks!

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John Ives (centre, to the rear), pointing out the rich history of the Railway Institute building, with the foundations of the Queen Street bridge behind. Source: Duncan Marks.

 

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YCAA Study Tour to Tallinn, Estonia, 7-11 September 2018

York Conservation Alumni Association is delighted to invite alumni, current students, friends and colleagues to join us on our Study Tour to Tallinn in Estonia for September 2018.

Tallinn, the capital of the Baltic country Estonia has a fascinating architectural mix that has been influenced by different rulers and conquerors through the history. On the study trip to Tallinn we’ll be mainly concentrating on three facets – the largely intact medieval old town, the Kalamaja region that boasts some of the best examples of wooden architecture from first republic period, and the vernacular architecture in Rocca al Mare Open Air Museum.

Tallinn Old Town
Tallinn’s medieval Old Town

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York Central’s Railway Heritage Tour for YCAA members, Saturday 14 July, 11am-1pm

YCAA MEMBERS and their guests are invited to attend a free and exclusive heritage event on Saturday 14 July, 11am-1pm: York Central’s Railway Heritage Tour.

The tour, which will precede this year’s YCAA AGM in the afternoon at the King’s Manor (Room G/33), will explore the York Railway Station facade and York Central areas.

The City of York Council, and other stakeholders, are currently proposing major development schemes for the areas to the Station Front and rear of York’s Railway Station. The latter is a 45-hectare brownfield site known as York Central. It sits on a Roman cemetery and for the last 150 years has been used for various railway purposes, including the site today of the National Railway Museum. It means this could well be the last time to see and fully appreciate this heritage before demolition.

The tour will be led by John Ives, a graduate of Leeds School of Architecture, who worked for British Rail’s Architects Department until its demise with privatisation in 1995 and has been a leading figure in working with the railway heritage over the last 40 years.

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Conservation Masters Graduation, 2016-17

Conservation Masters degrees this year were awarded on Saturday 20 January by the University’s Chancellor, Sir Malcom Grant, at the Graduation ceremony in Central Hall on the Heslington West campus, together with an honorary degree awarded to the journalist, Orla Guerin MBE, who gave an inspiring and moving address.

In all, 18 students graduated with their MA in Conservation Studies and Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) from the 2016-17 year. A number of others, who were finishing their studies part-time, will receive their awards at the summer graduation on 26 July.

You can watch the ceremony on YouTube here. The Conservation awards begin around 28 minutes in to the recording.

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Jess Western and Tom Pinner celebrating at the graduation reception.  Tom is now working as Heritage and Design Officer with Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Council. Jess, from New Zealand, is planning to continue her studies in a PhD programme.

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Newcastle-upon-Tyne YCAA Alumni & Student Study Trip

York Conservation Alumni Association is delighted to announce its free Spring study visit to explore the northern city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Saturday 17 March 2018.

Designed by Michael Atkinson, YCAA’s new Chairman, and bonafide NorthEasterner, the day will involve two walking tours to take in the city’s sites and buildings in order to explore the rich heritage at the historic heart of the city and the iconic setting of the quayside and bridges.

To book your free place on the tour, please register on the tour’s Eventbrite page.

 

Newcastle-on-Tyne: A Context

The city developed around the Roman settlement Pons Aelius and was named after the castle built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s eldest son. The city grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the C14, and later became a major coal mining area. The port developed in the C16 and, along with the shipyards lower down the River Tyne, was amongst the world’s largest shipbuilding centres. The city was a powerhouse during the Industrial Revolution with advancements such as the invention of the steam turbine and ‘Davy Lamp’ credited to the area.

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The Tyne at Newcastle in the mid-C18. Image: UGC / Chroniclelive.co.uk

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