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A river out of clay pavers

Architectural firm KavaKava won the competition for designing the street scene and public realm of a regeneration development in Parnü, a city of 45,000 residents on the west coast of Estonia. In their plan for the 3.2-hectare public area between the existing concert hall, museum and shopping centre, the architects referenced the area ‘s traditional industrial position as an important exporter of wood, via the Parnu River and combined it with clay pavers.

One of the planners ‘main tasks was to reorganise the streets and public squares. KavaKava‘s challenge was to make the large public area more attractive to users and remain true to its historic background while simultaneously improving access for the surrounding city. Aida Street forms the primary axis of the project area. Designed as a pedestrian zone, it leads from east to west, linking a newly constructed bus stop with the existing marina. Two neighbouring spaces, in front of the history museum and concert hall, combine to form a broad plaza ideal for staging open-air concerts and other events. On the east side, the square opens into a new city plaza with benches and green areas which can also be used as a marketplace or performance area for cultural events.

Referring to history

The architects, Katrin Koov and Kaire Nõmm, developed a spatial concept that joins the different, previously unconnected locations of the new part of the city by using historical references. Key to this is the river. As late as the 20th century the river Parnü, from which the city got its name, functioned as an important trade route. The primary export was timber which was floated down river into the city.

“Consequently, we used tree trunks as a central design element for the entire area,” explains Katrin Koov. The area of the earlier riverbed was marked with Dresden pavers in a half bond pattern that cleverly reveals the former course of the river, the location of the harbour, the line of the city wall with its corner tower, and the location of the church square. In this ‘river’ of paving bricks, we find occasional representations of tree trunks which increase in frequency as you near the former harbour where the concert hall now stands. Because this square has a high traffic volume, the tree trunks amongst the clay pavers are made of concrete instead of solid timber, with the surface made to resemble real wood. These tree trunks are arranged in orderly lines along the street only to break up the strict pattern near the new main square. They fit well with the natural clay pavers – upgrading the whole area and ensuring it will stay beautiful over generations.

Facts
  • Project name
    Street and public square design, Parnü, Estonia
  • Architect
    Katrin Koov, Kaire Nõmm, KavaKava
  • Client
    Developer: Aida Partnerid OÜ; City Government of Parnü
  • Used products

    Penter Dresden

  • Year of completion
    2009
Penter Dresden

Pavers

Penter Dresden