Department store Kvartal is situated in a very prominent area. Historically the city block consisted of low-rise private houses and smaller apartment buildings built out of wood and stone. The block was functionally diverse – there was living, working and leisure all mixed into one. During the march bombings of Tartu in the World War II, the buildings were destroyed. Former city block consisting of smaller buildings was replaced with a more monumental volume and a new approach to urban planning arose. Small-town scale slowly shifted, a new paradigm emerged and paved the way for larger volumes.
To re-create the city centre we thought it was important to divide the big building both horizontally and vertically into smaller volumes. We created powerlines such as cornices, the height of the roofs, street line and so on, making sure not to repeat the past mistakes. The solution avoids the addition of one more monotonous and unarticulated building volume to already congested cityscape. The goal was to bring back the human–scale building, which would be worthy of its location and wouldn’t resemble shopping malls which are located on the outskirts of Central European cities.
The varied and articulated facade is achieved with a simple programmatic method, where residential and office blocks are wrapped around the commercial core. Such placement leaves better views to the residential and office units while the commercial area that does not need direct light from the windows, will be minimized on the outer layers of the building.
The architectural concept of the project is derived from an urban planning idea, where the department store is wrapped inside the residential and office volumes. The complex, which core consists of the commercial and outer layer from residential and office parts, is a layered structure, which offers different spacial experiences and surprising functional relationships in every layer. By playing with the program and bringing the residential and office units to the outer layer, we were able to make a department store with a lot of openings. Kvartal resembles a city block with diverse functions unlike the department buildings next to it. The large volume is articulated with different materials, details and functions.
Smaller and larger shops and restaurants open directly to the surrounding streets creating an intimate and active street milieu. Different functions have separate entrances on the basement and street level. Separate entrances lead to the offices, apartments, hotels, SPA and department store. These staircases are cross-used only in emergency situations.