Estonian Urbanists´ Review U
Perifeeriad / The State of Periphery



Who is an urbanist?

URBAN STUDIES OF THE PERIPHERY: Nine years of urban studies in the Estonian Academy of Arts










City theory texts

CULTURING THE WORLD CITY: An Exhibition of the Global Present


Urban photography


Text and photos: ANNIKA HAAS

Conference keynote


Łukasz Stanek



Let us introduce


EVE ARPO, architect & GRETE VESKIVÄLI, architect MA student of Landscape Architecture, EKA

Field notes

CAMP PIXELACHE 2013: Mobility, Diversity and Resonance



ULDX: Between Architecture of War and Military Urbanism


In Academy





Who Wants to Become a Brave Citizen?



Integrating Social Impact Assessment Into Planning Practice

EPP VAHTRAMÄE, architect/ MA Urban Governance & MART UUSJÄRV, MA Urban Governance


Activity Space Based Ethnic Segregation on the Example of Estonian and Russian Speaking Population of Tallinn



Changes in Area Measures of Daily Activity Spaces due to the Change in Residence According to Mobile Positioning Data





Planning U14 began with a wish to delve into the small towns of Estonia, asking about the possibilities for local urban studies, and ended deep in a discussion of world cities and the question – Where actually is the periphery – is it a geo-political inevitability or a state of mind? Thereafter, "The State of Periphery" was born.

But we won't be focussing only on the hinterland and the diagnosis of growth complexities intrinsic to small towns, instead we will claim that big ideas might just as well be born in Tallinn, Tartu and maybe even in an unheard of place called Mõisaküla, as much as they are in New York or Toronto. In a new column “Urban Theory Republished” we are (re)publishing and more importantly translating, relevant texts on urban studies. This time we have included Steven Flusty's elaboration on the topic of world cities. The local practice of theory will be opened in a transcription of a discussion group about the ambitions of the urban studies program in the Estonian Academy of Arts, the theses dealing with urban issues from 2013, Mari Luukas's text on small towns having dreams suitable for bigger cities and the reality of shrinking populations. We dare to agree with Panu Lehtovuori, who finds that thinking about cities is one of the most important directions of contemporary theory and thereat a visit to Tallinn can inspire urbanists who are thinking in terms of world cities while more influential locations can make them howl in anger. In between the event overviews (The Urban and Landscape Days and the twin city festival Pixelache) and topical discussions we will ask again about art in the public space – investigate the backgrounds behind local street culture festivals (who would have thought that the street art landscape of Estonia is so eventful, diverse and ambitious) and invite everyone to the wasteland of the Estonian Academy of Arts, gather round the table, clear our thoughts and ask if art in an urban space can actually have more fishy aims. An example here can be Võru's wish to cover its houses with copies of paintings by well known Estonian artist Navitrolla.

We want to thank everyone who has helped us with this issue for the first, but definitely not for the last time. Cheers to Kaisa, Annika, Paul, Andreas and Maria!


Keiti and Kaija-Luisa

Who is an urbanist?
URBAN STUDIES OF THE PERIPHERY: Nine years of urban studies in the Estonian Academy of Arts

Photos: Kadri Vaher
Former professor of the chair of urban studies Panu Lehtovuori
View of the exhibition. Professor of urban studies Maroš Krivy on the background
Master thesis' defended between 2006-2012

From the 6th to 9th of March 2013 EKA G hosted an exhibition demonstrating student work from the 9 years of urban studies program in the Estonian Academy of Arts. As part of the exhibition U invited together a discussion group. Here we publish part of the debate and give a word to the former professor in charge of the program, Panu Lehtovuori and the current professor in charge, Maroš Krivy. They discuss the main achievements and future plans, and pose the question, how to benefit from being in the "periphery"?

U:  It has been nine years since the start of the urban studies program in the Estonian Academy of Arts and the biggest course works are exhibited. Today we would like to talk about the nine future years of urban studies in Estonia. So what will happen to the program, what is the position of an urbanist in Estonian society? Why is there an urban studies program in Estonia and what have been the main achievements of the first nine years?

Panu Lehtovuori (the previous professor in charge, later Panu. - eds.)Thanks for the invitation and thanks for organising this overview, I realise that I remember it quite well actually. So, why did we start this program about 10 years ago in Tallinn? I guess you all know, but if there is someone who doesn't, then it was initiated by Jan Verwijnen who was running the program of spatial design in the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. He had also worked for Rem Koolhaas and was educated in ETH in Zürich, Switzerland before that. Basically the mission of Jan was to bring the so called second urban planning to Nordic Countries. There is a certain tradition of urban analysis, a certain critical ethic of planning, which is quite different from the standard land use planning that is practised in the profession around here. And it comes from the late 1950s, early 60s Italian typomorphological tradition – Aldo Rossi, the person who made this typomorphological approach popular, was also a teacher of Jan in Zürich in the 1970s. So, there is this historical link which then resulted in quite an interesting program in Helsinki in the 1990s. Jan was a very active person, he brought that tradition and actually started to educate interior architects to become interested in urban design – to move from interior space also to exterior space and to have a broad analytical view. Then in the late 1990s early 2000s he started a completely new program in Tallinn. But why was Jan interested in Tallinn? This was because of me and other students in the year 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and Estonia got its independence. We were doing work for the Venice biennial with a student group from Helsinki and we saw the news in an Italian newspaper and thought we have to go back to Finland because the Soviet Union will take over, but the history was different and we coupled with another student group from California, San Francisco, and we decided that this is the time when the change happens and we have to do something somewhere in the newly independent states, and the place turned out to be Estonia. The next summer in 1992 we organised a summer school in Pärnu. We invited Jan as tutor of this summer school as he was the most interesting, intelligent and open-minded educator we knew. So, there is this long history of personal contacts between people who were behind this critical view of architecture and planning.

So why? Obviously I told this story to explain that there are personal connections, there is chance and things are not always so planned. But of course both Jan and myself had a reason to start it, it was not an accident. I want to make two points regarding your question. We didn't start this program for Estonia. Scientific research and science is international, it's independent of nation states and it is really supposed to be like that. We wanted to see it in the international, and more specifically in the European context as an agenda to develop and rethink planning, to develop and re-think architecture and to connect to scientific research. In between this period, if we are looking from 1992 to today, the transdisciplinary field of urban studies has emerged. In 1992 nobody was talking about urban studies, it's a newer phenomenon. There has been an increasing interest to study urban processes, urban phenomena from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, and in Finland, accidentally or not, were people who were part of this kind of new wave introducing this notion of urban studies. We were thinking that changes taking place here in central Eastern Europe, in the Baltic area, would also make it a very fruitful place to look into the international emerging scientific discussion around how to study cities, what can we learn about cities and how to develop cities for the new century. It's not for Estonia, but it is in Estonia for many good reasons. First of all we thought that rapid change, which has been occurring here, is a very interesting study case, the Tallinn context, Estonian context, Baltic Context, central Eastern-European context is worth valorising internationally. And secondly, we thought it's also a very good place to study. We had good contacts with the Department of Architecture in the Estonian Academy of Arts, but also more broadly to the network of architects here in Estonia. At that time, in the 1990s and also till the 2000s, the profile of Estonian architecture was much more open minded than in some other places, especially in Finland. Here architecture was international, intellectual, it was interested in concepts and this has been quite visible until today - people read here, they are interested in thinking. It's a very positive scene and we thought that there is potential for people coming in for academic and practical contacts.

U: How essential is it that the urban studies program is in the department of architecture?

Panu: That's almost impossible to answer. I think it could be in another place. It is not as such tied to the department of architecture necessarily. We have been thinking that, and playing with the idea of moving it to a different institutional context. It's not impossible.

The other question was what are the main achievements. Of course I’m the wrong person to answer that question, I'm completely biased. But if you want, then I can give some thoughts on of what I think is of good quality, or positive, or long lasting to some extent. One of the problems of the program is that nobody has graduated, it's only in the last year, 2012, that we had some non-Estonian students. But still, even though that's the case, the program has been quite an important connection point for people who are interested in topics around urban studies. The program was the first to put urban studies in the headlines and became some kind of contact point in itself, through students, through those who organised this exhibition, through people who have been teaching, through the many international guests. Of course there are many spin offs as well, for example, Linnalabor, the Spin unit by Damiano recently, and many, many similar spin offs. Also the other study programs in Tallinn and so on. Secondly I think that the Urban Studies Days, which we renamed Urban and Landscape Days, are a great tradition. It's an annual event, which has established itself on the Estonian and Baltic landscape. That's definitely an achievement. Now we are having the 10th Urban and Landscape Days this coming April, which is a full international conference (read more about the conference in review by Pasquale Cancellara). Actually it is a high quality conference. I don't really want to go into too much detail in terms of the student work. We are dealing with links between theory and practice; there is interest in scientific research and educating students in that. But there's also interest in practical work. Students are finding solutions for real or semi-real problems and then creating links to other actors – to the city, to regions. It really shows that this kind of work can actually change how people think, it can change how professionals think about their own space.

U: I think it's really interesting to see that urban studies, as well as the urban studies program, is an open field. But maybe we can ask from Maroš, what are your plans for the next nine years?

Maroš Krivy (the professor in charge, later Maroš - eds.): Oh, I can't talk about nine years, because I don't know, I can talk about one year maybe. I can also talk about the present.

Just to comment on what Panu said, one of the questions is why is the program in Estonia? This is really a very good explanation that he gave, but it is not something that should be a fixed criteria. Another very relevant and important thing which is also being criticised with this kind of interdisciplinarity, or I should even say indisciplinarity - that it's not clear what it is, that it mixes people from different backgrounds, or even makes you mix your own background. Often this is a disadvantage because people who have very clear professional identities, such as engineers or architects – they can pose the question: “Who are you?” But on the other side, I think, what I would like to do in the future is to actually feed these indefinite, unclear identities. On one side, perhaps we need to face this constant critique that you are not an expert because you don't fit into some kind of category. On the other side, this gives you a certain freedom to constantly question some of solutions that are taken for granted.

U: So basically, you have an obligation to find your own place within the urban studies.

Maroš: Yes, and actually, I don't know if I should open this debate now, but what is urban studies? It would be good to start debating it. I've been thinking over the last two days randomly about this old article, an interview by Andres Kurg. He interviewed Rob Shields, a professor of urban studies in Canada. He raised exactly that question in 2004 as an outsider: "What is this urban studies?" And I think this is, if I'm not mistaken, in the Estonian language the program is called urbanistika what we could actually rather connect with urbanism. I think it has a slightly different connotation than urban studies.

Anyway, I think there are two tendencies – one is a more technically oriented strategic approach, technocratic planning, and the other one is, how it is understood in the Western context. I did my PhD in urban studies in Finland and clearly my personal interest here is how to bring together what I understood as urban studies from my studies and what is understood as urban studies here. I think here it's much more pragmatically oriented – that an urbanist is this professional who proposes this solution for the city, like a kind of a toolbox.

U: So, our society is not ready for urban studies?

Maroš: No, I am not really being conclusive here. I think it is really important to debate. Maybe now I can just raise this issue without making any final words that one thing is this idea that you have to always come up with a solution. Whereas the urban studies tradition which comes more from this neo-Marxist or Foucauldian perspective of the analysis of how power operates in society and space, it's motive is to be critical, to raise questions without always knowing what is the immediate solution. Obviously the question is to what extent these two approaches can be brought together and at what point they can no longer be brought together. Does it make sense?

U: It seems that urban studies is a bit like a leech that sucks on to other professions, so now it is in the architecture department so it takes on architecture's philosophy which is coming out with a project or a solution. 

Maroš: There is a very important topic that Panu also mentioned: what does it mean to be international? Not just to say that we have some international students, or we don't have them, like this year, but also this idea about how much could we be international in the periphery? If you do urban studies in New York, nobody will ask you does it make sense to do urban studies in New York, yes? Because New York is not considered a locality, it is considered to be a place with global relevance. But here you constantly face this question. I think we should not be afraid of this, I'm just speculating, don't be afraid of being more secure, because there are ideas that are not necessarily peripheral and if you look at the East, there are so many examples that I can name… for example Prague Linguistic Circle or the Tartu School of Semiotics or Ljublana School of Psychoanalysis. We have small cities, small places where they formulate great ideas, great programs which then circulate globally. Especially now when we can download an article from the Internet and be in touch with people from around the world. Of course this personal context is important, I'm not trying to downplay the aspect of the periphery, I'm just saying that it should not be used as an argument for just looking here, and not globally.

U: Does the student of urban studies have to only have an international perspective if you talk about the urban studies program being not for Estonia?

Maroš: No, I didn't say it should not be… And if you look at what we did last year it's about Tallinn. It might be about Tallinn, but it might be about other cities in Europe. It's also about different scales. When you focus, you might focus on one street, on a district, on a city, on a region. This question of scale is a crucial thing. When we talk about urban space then it is becoming very important to talk about spatial scales. Even today, some people have proposed to stop talking about cities, but to talk about urban processes, or spatial processes that take place on different scales ranging from the street to a really global level. What happens when these processes that take place on different scales, global and local, meet?

Panu: Can I just add, it is a good idea to actually gradually start to critically think about the notion of urban studies because it's time to clear our heads again, but – it might be good, it might not be good… This critique of the notion city is of course already age old. I really mean that it has really been there since the late 60s, maybe even from 40s.

Maroš: I mean the notion is still used.

Panu: It's still used for good reason, but it's one of the big debates that can fill libraries, yet the notion of urbanisation has not been criticized until now. Just now I was in contact with Mark Gottdiener who was also here in Tallinn teaching a few years ago. He is now looking at Toronto for example. It's a city region, quite extended and when we look at contemporary city regions actually even the notion of urbanisation becomes meaningless. It is increasingly difficult to actually define the meaning scientifically because the densities, the borders, the ways of organisation start to develop in a such a way that a meaning of some kind of agglomeration of people also becomes diffused. I seriously think that urban studies and serious interest in cities and urban processes is one of the most important study fields at the moment, because we are, as we all know, going through some kind of historic revolution. The way human societies organise themselves is changing and the scale of urban agglomeration is one part of that, but as said this scale of urban agglomeration is losing it's meaning. It's actually becoming an uninteresting topic. We should find new ways, maybe it should be more qualitative, or maybe we should be looking at the word small, or I don't know, finding a different way to conceptualise how our societies are changing, how our life is changing.

To be continued in following U-s...



Photo: Pauline C.YuAs an urban geographer, the only thing I detest more than the notion of the “world class city” is the frequency and intensity with which I encounter interminable whining about being a world class city.

For some half dozen years, circumstances and poor choices compelled me to reside in Toronto, perhaps the drabbest, most unsociable, and ultimately most unnoticeable city it has ever been my displeasure to inhabit. Which, I suppose, is in itself a mark of global urban distinction, but that is another discussion entirely. Unsurprisingly, there exists a tendency amongst the locals to be very touchy about their city’s shabby anonymity, and as is common with these sorts of well-deserved inferiority complexes there is a widespread urge to either counter that anonymity or deny it entirely. The latter impetus takes the form of asserting Toronto is indeed a world class city, whereas the former entails quests to acquire the presumed trappings of world-classness and display them upon some sort of “world stage”. It is not uncommon to encounter Torontonians asserting both positions simultaneously. But whichever the case, the proof of urban worldliness is always the same; financial head offices, spendy “ethnic”-inspired eateries, a shiny tarted-up airport, and so on, plus an international festival or three providing excuses to show it all off. And starchitecture, of course, to clad the skyline in the biggest budgeted semi- and non-Euclidean forms, which in Toronto’s case generally manifests as facades affixed on the cheap to existing, undistinguished structures.

In all fairness, though, I must allow that my particularly low tolerance for this sort of world class whining is as much my own fault as it is any of the prodigious faults that constitute Toronto. Having been born and raised in Los Angeles throughout the last third of the 20th Century, I am no stranger to the dogged pursuit of world class status. Throughout my adolescence, one of the most commonly overheard turns of urbanistic phrase was “west of the Mississippi”. As in, we had the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the busiest port west of the Mississippi, the most dynamic gallery scene west of the Mississippi. As in, our ass was forever being whipped by New York and Chicago, the locales from which we tended to import all our objets d’art et architecture. Galling. Pathetic. And also a thing of the past. Because Los Angeles grew weary of being sullenly jealous and, in conjunction with untold millions of Latin American, East Asian and Ex-Soviet immigrants, did something about it. Things like build a downtown full of skyscrapers where none had been before, install a subway and lightrail network from scratch, strew museums and opera houses across the landscape, and even hold a garishly pastel-tinted Olympics to announce the transformation. By the time it was all over, we Angelenos had even become the world’s principle exporters of starchitecture. Well, the principle exporters of Frank Gehry, anyway, and Frank Gehry is starchitecture.

Angelenos no longer whine about becoming world class. There was a very brief moment of celebrating it, but for the most part we don’t much care anymore for world classness at all. To some extent, this is a case of a city becoming secure in and about its own identity. But it’s something else as well, an effect of what being world class has proven to include. The perquisites and luxuries aside, being world class has entailed exponentially swelling populations, exponentially swelling land rents, exponentially swelling incomes for elites only, and all the exponentially swelling social tensions this implies. All that, and a violent uprising. Those surrendering ever more of their shrinking paychecks to remain sheltered in ever smaller spaces do not tend towards celebratory moods, an indication that being world class is not necessarily something to which a city, let alone the overwhelming majority of its population, should aspire. The wish for worldliness may well be one made upon a monkey’s paw.

This unintended outcome should come as no surprise to anybody who takes just a moment to honestly consider where world classness, and the cities to which it adheres, originates. Clearly the core attribute of a world class city is some sort of broad centrality, but central to, and for, what? The canonical answer has long been “central to the control of capital flows, of flows of goods and flows of services,” nodes within a global order of free markets and parliamentary democracies. But this is less an answer than a canard, one that cynically misrepresents a global pantomime of electoral circuses concealing crony capitalism, all propped up by the water cannons of armoured personnel carriers and by missile-equipped Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Nor is this so novel as we are inclined to believe, the water cannon is merely the new truncheon and MQ-9 Reaper drone the new Gatling gun. Similarly, the global metastasis of gigantic titanium-skinned artichokes-cum-museums à la Gehry recapitulates the proliferation Paxton-esque crystal palace exhibition halls at the turn of the last century. Nor are these examples merely coincidental. Gatling guns and Reaper drones are the currency that makes the rest possible. So world class city is just the new imperial metropolis, imperialism having always been a prolonged chronic militarised shopping spree. Bargain hunting through superior firepower. And no matter how ghastly the lives of, say, Imperial Rome’s plebeians may have been, remembering the provincial fates of Jesus Christ or Queen Boadicea’s daughters should be enough to  underscore that the only urban condition worse than being a world class city is not being one.

In this observation hides another, far less obvious, reason to revile the lionisation of the world class city. Globalist rhetorics underpinning world class urban thinking presume one planet under the invisible hand, flat and fluid, in which cities rationalise their innards and pretty up their faces to compete and collude for the attention of the same corporate cosmopolitan class. Sure, perhaps, if you happen to be Singapore or Dubai. But anybody who has attempted a spontaneous afternoon drive from Tijuana to San Diego or from Tangier to Ceuta has run up against the towering contrarian steel and concrete truth of the matter. There is not one world, not for most of us at any rate. Rather, as in any age of empire, there are multiple imperia and spheres of influence, each with its own urban logics and city systems.

Taking these commonly dissimulated divisions of the world into account, it becomes evident every world city that thinks itself the centre of the world is at most a centre for some worlds and, necessarily, not for others. But if a centre can thus be made peripheral, might not this also imply a periphery can become central? At points where multiple imperia intersect and overlap, yes. Thus, the world city viewed through a funhouse mirror: the interworld city, a city situated at the interstice of empires and brokering between them. Metropolises like the divided city of San Diego-Tijuana, at the rupture of the Pax Americana and the corpse of Nueva Hispania. Or like Hong Kong, where a resurgent Pax Sinica washes up against the picturesque ruins of the Pax Britannica. And perhaps most exemplary of all, Tallinn, at the edge of the ancient Nordosphere, but up against the wreckage of the Pax Sovietica, ideally sited and populated for exchange between the Pax Europaea and the Russian wild wild east.

So congratulations, my Estonian readers, and surprise! You have been world class all along.

Of course, similar could be said of those Torontonians, situated as they are in the crack between the Pax Americana and the perpetually receding Pax Britannica. Please though, don’t tell them. They’re insufferable enough as it is.



On the 15th of January 2013 the city government of Võru posted the following information with an illustrative image on their web page:

“In relation to the discussions emerging about the lighting of the water tower, it came up that a lot of our buildings do not have a beautiful appearance and Võru town has decided to offer house owners and housing associations, who are willing to insulate their houses, the chance to use drawings by our own artist Navitrolla on their facade. The aim of using the pictures is to diversify the image of the city and add individuality. The city offers Navitrolla's drawings for free, the only condition is insulating the houses, in order not to ruin the job done later. When the house has been insulated, we kindly ask you to turn to the city government to agree upon which image you wish to use and when the painting can start. Those interested can choose themselves which drawing they want to have on their house. The given picture illustrates some thoughts, the rest of the pictures can be found on Navitrolla’s Facebook.”

Wallpainting schemes. Image: Võru Linnaleht

The message spread like wildfire and on the 2nd of February it had 3061 likes, 1338 had shared it on their wall and 191 had added a supportive comment.

Covering blank walls with pictures is a classical pseudo-solution that helps to divert attention from something more important. It is like fixing torn wallpaper with post cards or giving a pacifier to a crying baby. The pacifier paralyses any creative impulses the baby might have, silences curiosity and averts development, as it deprives the little person from stimuli to independently handle diverse situations. From two competing forces – the creative instinct and the desire to own – the pacifier puts the emphasis on the second. People of Võru should not agree with the pacifier called Navitrolla, instead of going with a half-ready solution they should look the truth in the face together and articulate the larger problem that they are facing. The question is not about a few ugly facades, but about managing the socialist heritage: what to do with the housing estates the state built after the war?

This is not a burning question only in Estonia, but elsewhere in Eastern and Western Europe. The latter have it much easier as the social democratic decisions made then are also the responsibility of current governments. In Eastern Europe those who built the panel housing are gone, new governments, especially exemplary in Estonia, do not think of housing as being part of their responsibility. The responsibility is placed on the owners and housing associations and sometimes also on local government.

There are a number of local solutions that have been offered in the form of thorough analyses to the question. An inspiring example is the landscaping solution offered for Seminari street's linear park in Rakvere. (B210, NU arhitektuur, Karisma), according to which a gaunt city centre street pining between panel housing will be redeveloped into a human-centric park-size urban space. A relevant example is also the fantastic small town of Cēsis which during summer brings together urbanists from Latvia and other parts of the world to solve urban issues with installations, visionary projects, work groups, etc. Maybe an initiative like that could also work in Võru? The future of panel housing is also a topic of the Tallinn's Architecture Biennial, that focuses on recycling socialism (“Recycling Socialism”).1

1. Also read the article "TAB210" by Anna-Liisa Unt in U13.

The case of Võru is translucent and even boring: the year of local government elections has started, the citizens are promised a varied array of "free meals", there is an artist with a good eye for sales, somewhere are the officials who have the skill to point out the "additional value", etc. It is unlikely that the people of Võru are not able to see through this "election scheme" and we can't blame them for being a fan of a popular artist, but the emergency light should be lit at least in the head of the Head Architect of the city, Ülevi Eljand, who has it in his capabilities to point out to the officials that while it is ok for a boss to reward employees with little pictures at random company functions, the obligations of the county centre (that is both, in terms of geography as well as logistics, a border city) leaders towards their citizens are much higher.

Actually a giant painting is a bad idea in principle here, considering the climate. The paint would stay fresh for a few years and would then start to fade exponentially. The bright colours characteristic to Navitrolla's paintings would suffer especially quickly. What would the city government of Võru do with the fading works of art in five years? Would they cover them with a new coat of paint? Would there be new paintings? Would that again be for free? These are all technical BUTs. Another, but even more relevant BUT is related to the questions of urban space and the aesthetic side of monumental art. First of all the understanding that a painting with measurements of 100x50 cm can just like that be blown up 30 times and painted on the wall and that's it, is artistically inadequate. It's not like that.

Monumental painting is a site specific genre in which certain aesthetic decisions will work on a chosen wall (the subject matter, technique, motive, the level of generalisations, etc.). The attitude with which the city of Võru justifies covering the panel houses with Navitrolla's paintings, by the mere fact that he was born in Võru, does not differ in its nature from the indifference that the Soviet power covered one sixth of the planet with panel housing. Ironic, but the city government of Võru is re-validating panel-cities.

Instead of borrowing an image from Navitrolla, the small town triggered by it's history should come up with something much more fruitful. The suitable landscape is there for it: there are a number of strong industrial enterprises, active cultural facilities in the city, such as the city gallery, city theatre, a cinema and Võru Kannel (local culture centre – eds.) with a good program. In a situation where, while integrating panel housing with the rest of the urban fabric, half-ready solutions are used, the money designated for murals could be used for solving more urgent issues. How many homeless people are there in Võru? Could we count them on two hands, find housing and bring them back to the job market? How many families live below the poverty line? How to help them? Do disabled people have access to the necessary institutions?

If the project is, despite all of the above, continued, one of the following solutions could be considered
a) to consult the architecture and construction department of Tartu City Government (Annelinn has experience with tasteful super-graphics, for example painting Anne street 55 with illustrations from books by artists Jaan Vahtra and Ado Vabbe – artists, who where popular when Annelinn was built – are used for beautification; Kaunase avenue 19 end wall fittingly refers to the dividing wall next to it);
b) to organise a public competition for every wall that has been insulated, thereat the expenses could be kept low by making the competition with invitation and the participants could be artists from Võrumaa such as Albert Gulk, Leonhard Lapin, Anna Hints, Marja-Liisa Plats, Andrus Raag, Kristina Viin or Peeter Laurits, who is one of the few who has worked with monumental art in Võru – there is a 100 m2 photo mural “Lõunõhummogumaa” in the shopping centre.

In conclusion – what is a house? First of all it is a place where people and ideas gather and find shelter. Society as such finds its realisation in a house. Apartment buildings are especially good examples of locations that have been created in consideration of the interests and ideals of society. I tend to think that the relationships between humans and ideas can be to a certain extent curated and made better – in order to do that we need to look into a house intensively, to find and map problems and create an action plan for reaching a better situation. Painting the walls means that the inhabitants have to leave the house. Instead of creating post-card houses (almost for condolences) we should be thinking about how to make a house in the community more societal and shared. A solution could be hidden in a rooftop garden or a garden plot next to the house or a shared sauna built in the attic, a club space or something else. Anyway, good people of Võru, please let go of the city government's plan and make it a base for thinking together about "what is a house and what should it be like".


The text was originally published in February 2013. In July 2013 we can say, that Võru apartment cooperatives reacted coldly towards Võru's preposition, even considered it to be a waste of money. Arved Breidaks from Võru city told U that at the moment the project is in an ready-to-go stage. There are 4 apartment houses that wished for their house to be painted. The painting works are expected to begin during the next two weeks. Breidaks claimed that the result will be there for everyone to see on Võru days taking place from the 17th to the 20th of August. More information about the project is available in the interview with Navitrolla and the mayor of Võru.


This article is issued in collaboration with Müürileht



There are 47 towns in Estonia out of which only 5 have a population exceeding 20 000. In the biggest city, Tallinn, there are about 400 000 inhabitants and in the smallest,  Mõisaküla, 800. Being a town is not so much a question of prestige, but the wallet – many towns have joined with the surrounding parishes to enlarge their budget. Mõisaküla is surrounded by the Abja parish, in the same parish there is also slightly bigger town called Abja-Paluoja. From a discussion with Ervin Tamberg, the mayor of Mõisaküla,  it became clear that retaining the town status instead of merging with the parish is enforced by the fear that all the money would go into the leadership of Abja-Paluoja. Paluoja11. The interview with  the mayor of Mõisaküla, Ervin Tambergiga, took place in May 2011. Notes are in the possesion of the author.. This fear makes them hold on to the title of town at all costs.

In order to have a title, there must be a future vision that is defined in a development plan. From that type of planning document we can see how, and based on what, the development of the area is guided. All points in the development plan have to be justified and adjusted to each town separately. However, unfortunately most development plans of Estonian towns tend to be similar, in most cases lacking any character and being too declarative.

Based on the changes in population, a town's development plan can be divided into three directions – growth, shrinkage and stability. Taking into account the response to future potential, this should be followed throughout the development plan. The trend of the last decades demonstrates that most small towns in Estonia are shrinking. 2. Data from 2013. The database of the statistics can be found here.

Figure 1: Shrinking population in Estonian towns between 2000-2010 (M. Luukas, Shrinking Cities – Kahanevad linnad, 2011.The master thesis separately deals with shrinking after the collapse of Soviet Union between 1989-2000 and shrinking that happened because of other reasons between 2000-2010).
The reasons for the shrinking population are different, but often intertwined and resulting from several larger processes.

The biggest fading away takes place in North-East Estonia, the location of mainly industrial towns. The towns there have been built to be mono-functional and often rely on one factory. When an industry is in decline a large proportion of the inhabitants can lose their job and may be forced to move away. For example the development of Püssi (with 1007 inhabitants)3. Data from 2013. The database of the statistics can be found here.

4. L. Leet, Ehitaja, 20.10.2009. Article can be found here.

Figure 2: Shrinking population of Estonain towns on the years 2000-2010 with the size of the towns. (M. Luukas, Shrinking Cities – Kahanevad linnad, 2011.The master thesis separately deals with shrinking after the collapse of Soviet Union between 1989-2000 and shrinking that happened because of other reasons between 2000-2010).
is based on a wooden board factory that has hired a few hundred people, but indirectly also gives work to about a thousand people in the fields of chemistry, metallurgy, forestry and transport. According to the leaders of the local government, the closure of the factory would put the town on the edge of disaster.4 


Shrinkage can also happen in towns that have historically developed beside an old trading road or highway. The change in the significance of some roads and re-directing of highways have left a few towns behind – for example Kilingi-Nõmme in South-Estonia, Abja-Paluoja, etc. I have myself been a frequent user of the Vana-Uulu highway, that also goes through Kilingi-Nõmme, but after the opening of the bypass in 2003, I have not passed through the town. Re-routing roads will slow the traffic and create safer streets, but at the same time it is harmful for local businesses and eateries who are losing potential customers.

Shrinkage is also definitely influenced by the growing attractiveness of bigger cities. Towns that are closer to a county centre have usually been able to avoid shrinkage – for example Saue, Maardu and Keila close to Tallinn, or Sindi near Pärnu. The population of Pärnu has shrunk to some extent, however the population of surrounding parishes and Sindi has gone up correspondingly. Living in a smaller town near a bigger city creates an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of both – for example the varied opportunities of the cultural sphere in a bigger city, but a peaceful and safe living environment.

Even though Sindi has been growing during the last ten years and Mõisaküla is shrinking rapidly, the development plans of both towns include several similarities5. The Development plan of Mõisaküla, the development plan of Sindi..5 The vision of both towns is to be friendly for local businesses, open to cooperation, have well maintained green spaces (for making the environment more active) and to guarantee good quality education. At the same time Sindi has expanded its vision and in a more justified manner, while Mõisaküla is trying to reach sustainable education by renovations then Sindi sees its goal to discover its special qualities and strengthen the identity of the local community, in order to encourage people to stay.

The development plans of Estonian small towns are ambitious in their vision and all would like to offer activities characteristic of big cities. For example the development plan of Abja parish envisions that in the future there will be several new companies, including catering and accommodation, tourist farms and recreational services. But the plan of action in the development plan is far more modest only describing a gardener's house and restoration of the hostel. Thereat the development plan of Abja mentions one important step, like in other towns, creating better conditions for entrepreneurs. One possible solution could be, instead of looking for economic prosperity, focusing on the natural economy – offer garden plots with better conditions for the people living in apartment buildings and support them in growing vegetables.66. For example in the town Ivanovo in Russia people live off home grown products from their summer cottages and they often organise large markets.

In general the growth of a city´s population is often linked to economic growth and the shrinking of a population with a crisis. Should shrinking be or is it even possible to see it in development plans? Planning itself can't guarantee the growth of the population, it is a tool for enabling it. Therefore development plans can't directly effect or reverse shrinkage, but they can offer better solutions considering the situation. The strategic planning of cities does not only include planning new buildings and infrastructure, sometimes demolishing and adjusting transport systems to lower intensity also needs to be planned. The development plan of Sindi clearly emphasises its aim to increase the population, while Mõisaküla admits that the population is decreasing, but their overall aim remains unclear (is it to shrink, to grow or stabilise).

Historically the fading away of a city has meant that there has been a catastrophe or something unexpected (Troy, Pompey, Chernobyl), in recent decades, however, as the shrinking of cities has been constant and continuous77. B.P. Oswalt, T. Rieniets, Global Study of Shrinking Cities. Read from here.- this should be taken as an equal development direction to growth. Shrinkage does not always have to be looked at as negative or accepted as giving up, but as growing to be smaller. The development scenario of a city needs to be sustainable – a shrinking town can have hidden opportunities that could not be realised in a growing town. For example in the planning of small towns in Holland (Parkstad Limburg – Heerlen, Kerkrade, Landgraaf, Brunsum, Simpelveld, Voerendaal, Onderbanken) shrinkage is looked at as positive – instead of apartment buildings private houses are built in shrinking areas so that the space would not seem empty. Empty houses in Germany and Latvia (Karosta, Liepaja) are used for various interesting projects – growing mushrooms, performance and art projects.8 8. At the same time a lot of governmental support in Germany has been given for densification of city centres and demolishing abandoned buildings - a fact that has not gained enough attention in Estonia.


One common denominator in the development plans of Estonian towns is the need to develope tourism sector, with a special emphasis on the beautiful nature. The development plan of Mõisaküla states that being close to the border, having a mellow urban buzz, safety, clean air and untouched nature together will make it a suitable stopping point for those travelling to Southern Estonia. The parish next to it, Saarde (Kilingi-Nõmme is a town inside the parish), claims that the area is, from the European viewpoint, pure wilderness and the forests, swamps, lakes and moors have a special significance for developing tourism. Why would a tourist prefer Saarde parish's wild nature to Mõisaküla's forest?

I agree that the future vision needs to encourage taking action and dreaming is necessary, but it needs to be taken into account, that the meadow/forest around the town does not make it special in terms of Estonia. For example Mõisaküla emphasises the closeness of Latvia as relevant when developing tourism, but if we look at the map, each side of the border has an extended area of emptiness. Abandoned ghost towns often have many curious visitors and this can be a sort of tourist attraction, however this type of tourism is not a sustainable solution for all shrinking towns. Tourism is an economic field that needs to be developed, and a big number of tourists can be a key to success, but a lake and a forest won't be an attraction in naturally beautiful Estonia. Even Abja parish advertises hunting, fishing and hiking, but as a speciality it brings out the dairy farms. Karksi-Nuia has left the beautiful nature topic out of its tourism chapter and wishes to create a network of farms who introduce heritage and natural vacations, which could be more inviting for several groups than a hiking path in the greens.

In order to encourage tourism we should think of sustainable services created for tourists outside of the season. It's likely that small towns will not be facing a rush of tourists all year round, so the solutions should be multifunctional and make maximum use of the existing. It means that the four churches in Mõisaküla could be used for different functions (in addition to the activities of the congregation they could be used for example for concerts or as an extreme solution also for accommodation)99. In some places in Europe some churches have gained a complteley new function – for example in Maastricht, the Netherlands a 15th century church has been transformed into a restaurant-hotel (Kruisherenhotel) or a bookshop (Selexyz Dominicanen). , other uses for school rooms could be found for the evening times. A good example of a multifunctional attraction, the main tourist magnet of Kiviõli, has become the ash mountains that in an addition to being used for skiing during winter have also found a function for the summer and autumn period (paintball, go-carts, descending on ropes, moto-centre, BMX track, health path).

Definitely one reason that inhibits the development of tourism in small towns is the lack of accommodation opportunities. Many camps and conferences could take place in smaller towns if the necessary services and accommodation would be available. Thinking about multiple functions and using existing homes for accommodation could be considered.


A large chapter of the development plan of every town is definitely education. To avoid ending up as a ghost town it is crucial to find activities for the youth and have a school in the area. Families with kids value good quality education opportunities and a variety of after school programs. From the development plan of Abja-Paluoja it is apparent that the youth is passive and do not want to take part in the offered initiatives. An ageing population is characteristic to shrinking towns and parental guidance is an important developer of views at a certain age and therefore the development plans should, in addition to focusing on the youth, give attention to the older generation. The development plan of Mõisaküla has brought out the growing need for care opportunities and developing that service, but the more precise actions towards it are missing. Would there be a person hired for this? One opportunity could be to engage students during domestic-science classes, but some towns could also become distinct by advertising themselves as retirement towns directing all its services in this direction. The town could also offer scholarships or support relevant studies. Later the town could make a deal with students that they have to work there for a number of years. The Ministry of Justice has for example focused on raising the quality of law in Eastern Estonia by offering a financial scholarship for the students of Tartu University, while, in return, the student has to start working in a court or a law office in East-Estonia after their graduation for at least two years. There are towns cultivating an educated population – for example the development plan of Kiviõli emphasises the offering of continuous retraining or special training opportunities, that could lessen unemployment and direct people to the specialities needed in the town. A local company (Kiviõli Keemiatööstus OÜ) also uses specialists through scholarships – offering support for successful students of Virumaa College of Tallinn Technical University, with the obligation to do an internship or final paper in the company.

It is easy to critique development plans, much harder is to find working solutions, but without a cunning plan and offering multifunctional services it is not possible to continue with a small budget. By focusing on the existing and making the life of locals more comfortable and fun, it is possible to turn a shrinking town into a growing town, while too generic and out of place development plans are making shrinking areas feel like ill fitting shoe that is not comfortable for those wearing it.



City theory texts
CULTURING THE WORLD CITY: An Exhibition of the Global Present

Photo: Steven Flusty

Imagine yourself visiting an exhibition at some new museum or other. This should not prove too difficult a task, given the fecundity with which museums have been cropping up in eccentrically angled glass or fluidly excreted titanium across the post-industrialised world. The exhibition itself, likely sponsored by some consortium of corporations anxious to advertise their civic-virtuousness despite their lack of any plausible local or national identity, is regrettably a small one – a collection that consists of a mere four artifacts. These are, after all, times of fiduciary stringency. Nonetheless, the few objects on display (available as authentic replicas in the attached gift shop, at co-sponsoring department stores and first-worldwide by special arrangement with amazon.com) should provide a serviceable impression of ongoing excavations into what might best be called the metapolitan moment.


Our first artifact is a small gold-tone and cloisonné lapel pin, circa 1990. It bears the slogan “Building a World City”, surmounted by a handful of stylised cubes forming a skyline in symbolic shorthand. This pin, issued to then-executives of Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency, celebrated L.A.’s long-sought ascension to “world class city” status through the of-a-piece installation of a high-rise central business district where none had existed a scant fifteen years prior. The skyscraper has become the universally agreed upon icon of world cityhood, a complex concatenation of material culture whereby, if you build them in sufficient density, the world will come. And so they have been built in great numbers, from Los Angeles to Frankfurt to Shanghai, in every city moved to signify indisputably its emergent presence on the world stage. Not that this fetishisation of tower-studded horizons is restricted to the urban apparatchiki, ask any child to draw a city and you will likely receive in return a picture of numerous, grid-bestudded rectangles all standing at tumescent attention. But within the symbolic system of the world city makers, the economystic arcana of location theory, urban entrepreneurialism and A-class office space are empowered by the mudras and mantras performed on stock-exchange floors, and the sigils transmigrated through cyberspace. These are what render the skyscraper not merely an iconic synecdoche inextricable from our collective cultural consciousness, but a powerful ritual instrument of practical magik. Erected and consecrated, it channels capital from on high to transubstantiate the city into a circuit for the electro-ethereal web of plutocratic global "flows". In the process, dispersed cities attain union with one another across vast distances to become a city of cities, a world city system, a metapolis predicated upon a common culture of cash and commodities in-transit – New York and London become NY-LON, ascendant within that supreme trinity of world citydom: New York/London/Tokyo1.Sassen, S. 1991.The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

2. Knox, P. and Taylor, P.J. (eds.) 1995. World Cities in a World City System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Taylor. P.J. 2003. World City Network: A Global Urban Analysis. London, New York: Routledge.

Hall, P. 1966 (1984). 
The World Cities. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

4. Friedman, A. 2003. “Build It and They Will Pay: a Primer on Guggenomics.” The Baffler 1/15. pp. 51-56.
or, perhaps less archaically, NY-LON-Kong. Beneath this world city of "alpha class" world cities, others take their rightful places in the beta or gamma classes arrayed along a great chain of municipal being determined with recourse to enumerations of each city’s corporate head-offices and producer-service firms.2

While our pin depicts only the architectonic lingam at the heart of this process, the skyscraper requires its attendants if it is to work its worlding magic. In the lay definition, world cities are places where the world’s business is transacted.3 But in their primordial genesis such cities were imperial metropolises, and along with their royal ministries, crown corporations and chartered banking establishments came sites where both the most sublime and grotesque of humanity’s creations, stripped from empire’s hinterlands, could be collected, admired and consumed. Commerce bedecked itself irrevocably in Culture, the banking house and the state house come hand-in-hand with the opera house, and to this day the contemporary world city is without a soul in the absence of the art museum and the concert hall. Without the cultural capital, the intellectual capital at the helm of fiduciary capital will not come. Thus L.A.’s skyline arrived with a complement of two highly celebrated art museums and a completely remodeled third, Frankfurt’s a museum row consisting of more than a dozen fresh-built museums on the banks of the Main, and franchises of Manhattan’s Guggenheim proliferate across the face of the earth.4 It is Culture not just as commodity (an old story, that) but also as bait, pre-packaged events and exhibitions that are shunted, for a fee, from one world city aspirant to another. A condition appropriately isomorphic to the metapolitan harmonisation of settings in which these unitised Culture flows take up their temporary residence – the meltoid metallic curves of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao being all but indistinguishable from those of his Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.


Our second artifact is a boxful of LEGO – multicoloured, snap-together building blocks. This particular boxful is one selected from LEGO’s collection of "World City" building sets that, when assembled according to the photograph on the box, creates a high-tech police surveillance truck accessorised with a three-wheeled motorcycle to apprehend fleeing suspects. The city of the child’s imagination may be a simplified rectilinear skyline, but LEGO’s pedagogy of play elaborates that vision with the detailed specifics of a world city culture – build-it-yourself high-speed passenger and cargo trains on the one hand, and on the other police helicopters, armoured cars and surveillance vehicles; on the one hand mobility, on the other its delimitation and suppression.

These are not oppositions, though, but complements. Machines for moving the possessions and persons of those who have rely upon machines that immobilise the dispossessed. And then some – for every chauffeured town car there are legions of surveillance cameras arrayed along its route, ensuring unmolested passage across the world city and throughout the metapolis, from gated community to corner office suite, from Four Seasons Hotel New York to Four Seasons Hotel London to Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai at Pudong, from Parisian café to Phuket beach resort. Along the way, each stop is an opportunity to acquire new and different tastes, sights, objects and experiences, to sample and edit and recombine them. A vast cosmopolitan hybridity engine, lubed and fueled for perpetual motion with the sacrificial blood, sweat and "ethnic food" of the immobilised – closed out and run over by border walls and the gates of guarded neighbourhoods, held in favelas and gecekondus and refugee encampments, kept in their place as assemblers in Export Production Zones and waiters in Club Meds and janitors in skyscrapers’ washrooms or on trading room floors, fixed in shrunken places where the new is what’s on TV now and the different are those who aren’t quite right a few blocks over thataway. True, upon particularly restive occasions they may elide the walls to irrupt virtually into and across the metapolis. Those walls, however, remain to readily contain virtually irrupting bodies, and contained irruptions are readily extinguished.

The privilege of mobility plugs into cosmopolitanism and tabs together with ever-accelerating hybridisation, while the immobilised slot in with localisms that snap tight with desperation.55. Friedman, J. 1994. Cultural Identity and Global Process. London: Sage; Bauman, Z. 1998. Globalization: The Human Consequences. Cambridge: Polity Press. This is the prescription for connecting the blocks of world city culture, the illustration of a sharply bifurcated complementarity emblazoned on front of the metapolis’ box.

But prescription does not entail subscription, instructions can be disregarded, and the blocks of LEGO’s surveillance truck serve equally well to make a tuktuk, a "technical" bristling with RPGs a’blazing, or a dancing low-rider pickup truck. The building blocks of world city culture are similarly incorrigible – the immobilised prove mobile, privilege cleaves to parochialism, and hybridity is born of desperation. Consider, for example, the executive elite, flying business-class from business-class airport lounge to business-class airport lounge, from business-class hotel to business-class hotel, rarely compelled to speak an alien tongue, ingest an unfamiliar food or negotiate a foreign street. Now, compare with the West African taxi-driver negotiating a fare through the streets of London or Tokyo, a Michoacaña hotel-maid walking a Manhattan picket line, a sailor recruited from Luzon Island to tend the containerised leviathans that ply the shipping routes linking these three cities into one – all obliged to adapt their everyday worlds to that in which they find themselves subsisting, and it to theirs. Now, who among these is the cosmopolitan, and who the blinkered local? True, the circumstances of the refugee compelled across a border differ radically from those of the tourist who crosses by choice, but still, which is doing the real work of hauling other worlds into the world city?

Such are the problematics and potentials of the metapolis, a fluidly demarcated global urban field upon which we all wrestle with the very definitions of alien and native, foreign and domestic, cosmopolitanism and locality.  And during such contests we kick up dislocalised localisms, new majorities and emboldened minorities, ever-shifting constellations of popular coalitions, and maybe…just maybe…a chance to reimagine the world city’s fiduciary rationale not as an underlying truth but as just one of many strategic, and inherently cultural, agendas.


Our third artifact is a tasbih, a set of ninety-nine black wooden beads strung along a tasseled green cord to form an Islamic rosary. This component of the collection was made in Bangkok and acquired in Toronto, but could equally well have been purchased in New York, London, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Hong Kong or Shanghai. We could think of this tasbih as proof of how the world’s ex- (or-neo-, if you prefer) colonial hinterlands penetrate to the global centre, infusing their many worlds into the once-and-neo-imperial world city. But another interpretation is equally valid: in determinations of how the tasbih is (or is not) to be employed for performing dhikr, personal prayer, New York, London and Tokyo are the recipient hinterlands of a very different global centre – a system of world cities comprised of such places as al Madinah, Cairo and Karachi.

Of course, it might be argued that such locales cannot be world cities. They are not centres of corporate command and control, they are woefully undersupplied with skyscrapers, they do not attract armies of immigrant labour, they don’t even have a Guggenheim. In a count of corporate head offices, al Madinah would not even appear as a delta class world city! But for many of those whose patterns of commonplace, symbolically-charged material practices – whose culture – is more beholden to the Qur’an than to the capital markets, al Madinah is central in a very different world city system that relegates New York, London and Tokyo to beta or even gamma class status, at best.

The tasbih is a reminder that while corporate head offices are readily countable, this in no way entails they are all that counts, and counting other cultural indicators yields some very other world cities organised into some very other world city systems indeed. Head offices, after all, are no less cultural artifacts than any other, components of the dynamically patterned practices within which capital and economies are embedded. And if we shift our vision to focus upon the material practices that circulate not conceptions of capital but of, say, divinity, cities we never thought to notice before take pride of place: Vatican City, al Madinah, perhaps Salt Lake City and Dharamsala and, insofar as neoclassical economics presently constitutes the planet’s preeminent theology, Chicago. Nor need we stray so far into the realm of the theological. In a world imbued with cinematic communications, for instance, Mumbai has long stood astride all others for sheer quantity of output while Tokyo, that waning paragon of world cityhood, constitutes a frontier hinterland wherein anime and videogaming fruitfully miscegenate and multiply to infest the Internet and migrate in all directions – here there be monsters, and they’re headed our way!

The metapolis, then, is not simply a world city system but a system of world city systems, and at these systems’ proliferating intersections divergent cities manifest within one another across wide distances – the culture of the arbitrageur embodied by the branch-office of a Manhattan-based bank in Riyadh invariably implies the presence of al Madinah’s priestly culture in any number of masjids dotting the northeastern seaboard of the United States. Such ongoing cultural exchanges generate a landscape of interleaved world cities, one that systematises differently depending upon how one looks, and what one looks for. Further, the disjunctions between these different systematising views are not just an artifact of how we see, but also an impetus to how we act: consider, for instance, the currently escalating tension that indirectly pits the metaphysical logic of al Madinah against the fiduciary logic of NY-LON, tension that manifests at scales ranging from the geopolitical to the city block.

It may well be that being a place where the world’s business is conducted determines world cityhood. The business of the world, however, takes many forms indeed – embedded as it is in wildly divergent patterns of widely differing practices that are simultaneously material and symbolic – and the world city necessarily follows suit. For some time now it has been commonplace to assume the world city as a deculturated economic formation, and to pursue from there such cities’ more-or-less epiphenomenal cultural correlations. Meanwhile, the battle cry against these market-driven urban machines has been: “another world is possible”. A crippling understatement, that, when the polyvalent cultural embeddedness of the metapolitan condition proclaims something simpler yet far more radical: “other worlds are.” Rigorously universally scientifically objective determinations of world cityhood notwithstanding, there are far more kinds of world cities, organised into far more world city systems, than are dreamt of in our geostatistical algorithms.




Our fourth and final artifact is a hoary platitudinous trope, but no less true for it: mirror. Perhaps ethno-preciously framed in Moroccan tiles, or polychrome Oaxacan stamped tin, its provenance and details are unimportant. What matters is that you view yourself within it, cease to be an exhibition attendee, and become instead a participant.

 We are free to depict the global circulation of cultural material, whether instruments of fiduciary capital, exertions of migrant labour, tweets of irruptive dissent, cinematic genres or ritual implements, as flows. But conversely, we can describe them as discrete units comprised of those who send, receive and deploy them, who carry them from place to place and adapt them to new settings. Material practices exist and become meaningful only on account of their practitioners, and that means us. In innumerable and diverse ways, sometimes intentionally but more usually without realising it, we are the world city makers and the sites at which systems of world cities intersect. Whether an executive flying business class between New York and Hong Kong, an immigrant labourer sending remittances back home to the outskirts of Morelia or Accra, or a Muslim doing dhikr in Dearborn, we carry our worlds with us, refit them to the cities in which we find ourselves, and transmute the city as best we can to accommodate our worlds.

 The aggregate of our practices is the culture of the world city, its ongoing hybridisations and metapolitan outcomes, and to act accordingly is to recapture just the slightest bit of command and control so long held aloft in those alpha class conurbations of imperial ministries cum head offices. The more of us who do so, the more control we recapture from on high. But failure to do so is acquiescence to a marketist multiculturalism, one in which privilege makes great show of tolerating all comers while zealously insulating itself against them, leaving those so excluded to eye one another with suspicion and fear.

Establishment of common cause amongst the divided and conquered constitutes the best response to such a dog-eat-dog metapolitan dystopia. A shame this seems no mean feat, given how the divisions in question are predicated upon the seemingly irreconcilable divergences of viscerally affective, meaning-laden material practices: kulturkampf or, more specifically, the purported clash of separate and distinct "cultures". Cultures that – despite the planet’s much-touted new penumbra of digitalised para-sociability – seem to (re)constitute themselves ever more exclusively when threatened with the presumptive compulsions of acculturation, Coca-Colonization and McDonaldization.

But while our worlds may remain divergent, in the world city they must also make their homes cheek by jowl, rub up against one another, swap bits and pieces, and propagate the hybrids that result. Interculturation reconciles irreconcilable worlds without sacrificing their irreconcilability. In the streets and the everyday, it mocks both the dictatorship of acculturation and the disingenuousness of multiculturalism, whether in forms as ephemeral as the appearance of soju cocktails in Persian restaurants or as radical as the Zapatista’s anti-authoritarian tactics embodying on the streets of Quebec City or Genoa. In the world city it is everywhere, and it constitutes a small but mighty tool for re-Building a World City from the underside out…especially when fortified with a modest dose of xenophilia.

By xenophilia I do not mean the romanticisation of some Other and the consumption of the othered’s cultural forms, although this at least can constitute a first step – we have become too prone to underestimate the power of breaking bread with others on their own terms. Think instead of xenophilia as a driving thirst to openly engage, and be engaged by, that which is unfamiliar, a sensibility that regards difference as much more than just something that happens and needs to be grudgingly dealt with or, worse, defended against. Xenophilia reminds us of how we too are different, prepares our psyches for deep relations with those who differ from us, and at the same time acts as a remedy to and an inoculation against our mistrust of otherness. So while our lived worlds, and our apprehended knowledge of how the world is, are necessarily too divergent to ever completely integrate, cultivating xenophilia is requisite to appreciating, respecting and even empathetically occupying each other’s ineluctably partial perspectives.66. Haraway, D. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge. Esp. pp. 183-201. 

7. Bakhtin, M. (Holquist, M., ed.) 1988. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
 Through xenophilic engagement we develop the capacity to experience a semblance of diverse realities, interact dialogically with others who live those realities, and so negotiate across differential positionsamiably and with mutual affect. Such dialogical negotiations, in turn, are indispensible if radically diverse social actors are to take a stand against practices whereby power works to silence and disappear many, and order the metapolis as a whole, for the benefit of a few.

So, which shall it be? A place where difference divides, privilege is conserved, and the devil take the hindmost? Or a place where otherness engages, disparity is dismantled, and the production of a metapolitan culture becomes a common, conscious project? We culture the world city, so the choice is ours. 



Urban photography


After linguist Paul Ariste, who the older generations of Romas still call by the cognomen “white gypsy“, study of this small and private community has been arbitrary and chaotic. There has been a couple of master theses, that unfortunately remain hidden from the wider audience, and from time to time an article is published in the media, but as a stereotype these flashes have a negative undertone. If there is one black sheep in a small community, their dirty deeds are carried over to the whole flock. The gypsies are an uncomfortable subject for us. Because we don't really know them. Just as black people are still not known in Estonia and racist behaviour is still unfortunately common. Yet, gypsies are one of our old-established minorities – they have lived here more or less permanently since the 17th century, and they were first mentioned already in the year 1533. During the last big war the gypsies were subject to genocide and almost all of the indigenous community was murdered in the concentration camps. The community of Romas currently living in Estonia follows three streams – there are Estonian, Latvian and Russian gypsies. The first of those are the descendants of the older generation of whom only a few have remained, the Latvian and Russian gypsies now form the core of the Romas living here. The Latvian Romas have gathered in Valga and the Russian Romas mainly in the bedroom suburbs of Tallinn and peripheral parts of the city. The aspect of periphery in their choice of place of residence is linked to the yearning for freedom and closeness to nature that has been constant in their character.

Generally they prefer to live in small houses in the suburbs with big families, it is possible that 3-4 generations of one family live together, in addition to that closer and more distant relatives. The gypsy spirit needs air, but more than that it needs to be close to the close ones. The unity of the community and the separation from the rest of society is emphasised even more by the fact that their own language is used as a kind of secret language. The gypsies have created their own private islands in the midst of the general society. In order to understand this, the reasons for this type of peripheral existence need to be studied further.






The number of festivals in Estonia focused on enriching urban spaces through varied art practices during 2013 is noteworthy. Marika Agu investigates the conceptual aims of street art festivals Stencibility in Tartu and Sõnum Seinal in Pärnu, urban festival UIT in Tartu and street art festival Prossessifestivaali in Suvilahti, Helsinki, initiated by the former Estonian Institute in Finland.

STREET ART FESTIVAL STENCIBILITY25th April - 12th of May 2013 in Tartu

Interview with Sirje Joala

What are the conceptual triggers of the Stencibility festival? On what type of experiences does the festival focus on?

The aim of Stencibility is to give recognition to street artists for their input into the enrichment of shared space, raising the community's attention and awareness about the art that surrounds us in public places and to fostering street art culture. For the first few years it was mostly about creating awareness, expressed through, for example, a photo competition and choosing the best street art piece. Now, I guess, this work has largely been done. This year we managed to successfully start inviting artists to Tartu from outside of Estonia, and we will definitely continue doing that in the up-coming years. We strongly encourage the engagement of people, those interested are invited to get involved with organising the festival – this year we had 3-4 volunteers. In addition to painting walls we have always tried to engage a larger audience, for example, to take part in the photo competition or pick their favourite street art piece, this year we made some excursions and a film program.

What is the role of the Stencibility street art festival in designing Tartu? How do you see the festival's influence on the town?

Like it became clear from the situation with cleaning the Vabaduse bridge, we, with the festival are the only official link between the city and the street artists. Maybe us being well organised made it clear to the city that street artists don't just flounder around randomly, but they are serious. If we can organise two new murals in Tartu every year then this physically changes the urban space quite a bit.

Kashink making a mural on Võru street
Photo exhibition on Kaarsild
View of the exhibition Papergirl
Okeiko and Hypnobooster next to the stairs on Struve street


What kinds of activities and events have also come along with the festival?

In the first year, 2010, there was a gathering for Estonian stencil artists and a symbolic competition in Polymer, where actually the winner was not important, but doing things together and getting to know each other was. In the second year Multistab made a mural on Võru street, at the same time a mural was made on the outside wall based on a shared vision and also public voting for the best street art piece took place. On the third year a mural was made by Satinka in Genklubi and on the small observatory on Toomemägi and a photo competition took place. This year we had a photo exhibition on Kaarli bridge and Papergirl's exhibition in the cellar of Tartu City Library that culminated with giving out the art works on bikes,  plus French artist Kashink made a mural on Võru street and Estonian artists Okeiko and Hypnobooster made a mural near the stairs on Struve street, additionally there were bike tours and a film program.In addition to reflecting on the events of the festival, Stencibility's Facebook page mediates what is going on in street art of Estonia all year round.


Additional Information:



STREET ART FESTIVAL SÕNUM SEINAL10th -14th of August 2013 in Pärnu

Interview with Keiu Telve

What are the conceptual triggers of Sõnum Seinal (Message on the wall - eds.) festival? On what type of experiences does the festival focus on? How do you see the role of street artists in designing urban space?

Everything actually started when I had the chance to research street art as part of my BA thesis. Discussions with street artists and getting to know their outlook on life made me think of the different options of how to spread the experience and knowledge to those who don't have the opportunity and time to get to know the field better. It is possible to enhance the urban space with street art and from my communication with street artists it has turned out that they also share this ambition. Messages, colours, exciting compositions could be part of our everyday urban image. Street art does not require complicated technical solutions or a special effort to visit galleries or art museums.

The festival Sõnum Seinal focuses on demonstrating different opportunities street art has to offer by bringing, in addition to stencil art and graffiti, the interpretations of Estonian art classics, sculpture, painting, etc. to the streets. We have not excluded any form of art and drafts of every style are welcome in the competition. The final look of the festival becomes clear after choosing concrete works.

What role is represented by Sõnum Seinal in designing Pärnu? How do you see the effect the festival has on the city?

While searching for places for street art works we have foremost looked into urban spaces that lost their initial purpose and have been left to decay for a period. With colours and messages we give the old surface a new value, which in turn should widely demonstrate the opportunities for using street art. Works made during the festival will stay up in the city for a longer period and ideally will become part of Pärnu. The aim of the festival is to show alternatives in the processes of designing a city and to push how it is possible to change an urban environment by one initiative and maybe even make it better. On one side the festival can be regarded as an action showcasing street art, but deeper is the wish to make people notice the urban environment they are surrounded by and the opportunities for improvement.

What kind of activities and events accompany the festival? Based on what are the concrete objects used for street art chosen in an urban space?

The centre of the festival will be the Pühavaimu 17 house that collects three separate projects. It is an old factory building, that has been left to fall apart and during the festival a street art themed exhibition will take place on its premises, the windows of the house will be for the project “A window to art” and the end wall will be a canvas for another artist group. In addition to the house on Pühavaimu street there will be an art classics alley in Pärnu's Brackmann park, that will gather interpretations of works by Estonia artists, in Steiner's garden it is possible to look at sculptors in action. Jasper Zoova's net-sculptures will be located in Rannapark and in addition to that there will be a couple more walls in the city centre that will be given for artists to use. The choice is a result of the team's vision and availability of buildings in the city centre area of Pärnu.


Additional information:


The artistic director of Sõnum Seinal:


Photo: suurjalutuskaik.blogspot.com

Interview with Marie Kliiman and Karmen Otu

15th -17th of August 2013 in Tartu

What are the conceptual triggers for organising the UIT urban festival? On what type of experiences does the festival focus on? Could the purpose of the festival be constructing something new in a familiar, mundane town?

The idea was formed while out visiting foreign festivals. When we started working on the idea in Tartu, it appeared that there were many people thinking along the same lines. One is Eclectica, a festival that also introduced itself as interdisciplinary, and it stopped last year, so for this reason there is a situation in Tartu right now, where there is no event that would bring together artists working in interdisciplinary and space specific fields.

Even though it is foremost an urban space festival for Tartu, UIT also has an international aspect bringing artists together that deal with new points of views, techniques and disciplines for Tartu and local artists. And also so that people would look at Tartu in a new and exiting way. For example the graduates of the prestigious Norwegian Theatre Academy will be taking part in the festival. They will be using a method of engaging the public into a play via a blog – amongst other things the audience can choose who will be kissed in a telenovela style play and what will be the ending. You can also meet artists who do body mime from the performing arts centre MOVEO in Barcelona. Their performances are short compositions in unexpected places.

One of the main aims of the festival is to guide the inhabitants and visitors away from the everyday paths and bring unexpected happenings and bizarre surprises into the regular day, to invite people to wander down seldom used paths. So, we can say that one of our aims is definitely the construction of something new in an already known, routine town.

What kind of activities accompany the festival? What is the interdisciplinary aspect of the festival about?

The main program gathers artists from the fields of performance-, sound-, and video art, you can see several location specific installations in the town, there will be various literature and street art based tours taking place. There will also be several space related interactive games and you can also find activities directed at children on the program. This time artists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and Norway will be taking part in the festival.

It is important that through co-production the festival encourages the works of artists from different fields, and we plan to emphasise this even more in the upcoming years. Performance- and installation art are expressions through which artists from different fields can through collaboration create a new quality. We wanted to break out from the slightly capsulated artistic production that as a rule expects the director, actor and scenographer to work together. We should be braver in addressing creative people with different backgrounds.



What type of practices utilising the city are encouraged by the festival? What parts of the city do you wish to bring attention to?

We want to take the cultural life of Tartu now focused in the city centre to the suburbs and the so called Tartu periphery. So that the bedroom suburbs would not be only for sleeping and, in addition to the trucks, it would be wandering pedestrians and cyclists that would explore the industrial areas. It is a kind of a know-your-hometown project – you can find beauty and excitement everywhere – art does not only belong in the galleries, culture clubs and theatre houses, but also on the streets and amongst people. We want to bring colours and excitement into the urban space, making people take a look at what surrounds them with fresh eyes.

From the program of UIT you can find an installation by Eike Eplik in mysterious China town and a play “Real space“, that is made in collaboration between young choreographer Liis Vares, jewellery artist Anna-Maria Saare and performance artist Taavet Jansen in Vana-Peetri cemetery. There will be several other performance art projects in similar unorthodox places.

Does the festival approach the city as a background system of inter-human participation or is the city a research object in itself where the origins of different elements of the city, such as history, authorship, etc. will be brought out?

We rather see the city as a research object in itself, growing and developing, to some extent a self-regulatory organism, if I can say it like that. It is a romantic point of view, but despite that (or maybe because of that) also charming. The city, entailing a certain kind of collective anonymity, can do very cool things. We deal a little bit with researching into this anonymity and creating certain shifts in it. A good example of this is an action with Pikk street 86 house in Annelinn, where we managed to agree with the inhabitants from the block house, who without knowing each other (or us), on the creation of a light installation. There is something very beautiful and powerful in this.


Additional information:




Interview with the organiser of the festival and the curator of the street art exhibition Viktor Gurov

12th of June 2013 in Helsinki, Finland

What was the conceptual aim of Prosessifestivaali and what did the festival focus on?

Prosessifestivaali focuses on side phenomena and processes taking place in the city and public space. This time more attention was given on street art. There were different workshops where the inhabitants could try different techniques used in street art, we showed short films, there were musical performances and lectures focused on street art. We opened street photo-, comic- and street art exhibitions. The idea was to open up and learn to understand the creative phenomena taking place in the city through different activities, discussions and observation practices.

How did your choice of artists taking part evolve?

While putting together the exhibition “Prosessi” I focused on artists who have a certain role in designing the urban space, who by being inspired by events taking place in their surroundings have started changing the urban space on their own initiative. The aim of the exhibition was through the works of the artists to show their creative process. The choice of the artists was based on their previous works. The organiser of the festival was the Estonian Institute in Finland, therefore it was in our interests to invite as many artists as possible from Estonia. An important condition for making the choice was how active they had been in recent years and their input into street culture.

Estonian artists taking part in the exhibition were Multistab, Le 60 collective, Uku Sepsivardil and MinaJaLydia. From Finland Poe, Egs, Frank & Japhy, JussyTwoSeven and Pallo. In addition to street artists from Helsinki there was Nug from Sweden, Petro from England, 2Shy from France and Flying-Fotress from Germany.

How did you decide to present the street art works in the exhibition?

When it became clear that I can organise an exhibition in the Tiivistämo building, I divided the plan into 11 areas. I sent the concept description to the artists, the plan with the divided areas and photos of the space. The general idea was that when you enter the exhibition space you will first see works by artists who are influenced by common graffiti, thereafter artists who use an iconic language, for example in their characters and installations, and thereafter artists who represent the stencil technique. As several artists had collaborated previously then I put them close together in the exhibition. Many of the murals and installations were made especially for this exhibition and were finished when the exhibition was put up, this required quick decisions and good collaboration with the artists.

How do you see the role of street artists in urban design? It is a common belief that graffiti carries the subconscious of the inhabitants, but how do you see the relationship between city and street art.

The city influences people in different ways. A reflection of ideas and the thoughts of individuals in an urban space is a natural phenomenon. A street artist creates additional value with their work, but at the same time it can have the opposite effect, because a lot of things cannot be considered as art. It seems to me that only when the inhabitants are interested and able to understand street art is it possible to understand street art in a public space.


Additional information: 


Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht
Photo: Lauri Täht



Let us introduce

Photo: Grete Veskiväli
Photo: Tanel Meos
Photo: Eve Arpo
Photo: Martin Hoffmann
Photo: Martin Hoffmann

Art students are waiting for a new building, inhabitants of Lasnamäe are waiting for a bus. These two groups are not connected by anything else than waiting and the empty lot on Tartu road 1. Here there is a bus stop from where buses go to Lasnamäe. Three years ago was the building of the Estonian Academy of Arts. From the 9th of May till the 9th of September it's the location of LAUD1 1.TABLE – eds. – an urban space project part of KUMU's exhibition “Afterlives of Gardens”.

LAUD does not directly refer to any familiar object – it is not a bench or a table, a barrier or a road – it is rather a symbiosis of all of the above and even more. LAUD is hinting at the construction of EKA's building and offers a place to pause for passers by. When LAUD was opened, a void used as a half-empty parking lot turned into an active construction site beneath the eyes of the observers for a few hours. Cranes, a tractor, dumper and special carriages with construction men were putting panels in place in the middle of the night. What should be happening every day, became a reality. An imaginary house became a reality.

When you are acting in urban space the results are unpredictable, a work of art gets it's meaning in accordance with people's reactions. A lady from Lasnamäe, who is waiting for the bus is not bothered by thinking of meanings, but uses the object for supporting the bag with her groceries. Tourists from Japan pass the object without giving it a single glimpse. It seems like their brain registered the object as construction scrap and did not forward the signal. Taavi Tulev records bird sounds in nature and uses the object as a performance space for presenting his sound art. The sound of birds is not a mere attempt to bring the mood of nature to the city, but in it's distortion sounds rather like an absurd zoo. Signe Kivi2 2. Signe Kivi is the Rector of Estonian Academy of Arts.sees an exhibition by the academy’s master students planned to be organised next to the object as a threat to her reputation and forbids it's taking place. Teenage girls look at the element as a possible catwalk and move their hips imitating a model's walk. A BMX biker sees it as another obstacle line and makes few jumps. Sociologists could use the objects for research into their own behaviour: “Why is the Kaubamaja side of the 48 metres long object attractive for young mothers and lovers and the other side for drunks and a more suspicious crowd“.



As a tentacle of KUMU's exhibition “Afterlives of Gardens” that reaches the city centre, LAUD tries to test the surrounding reactions. On the surface of the conceptual subtext, the aim is to create a pleasant and surprising environment, that would force people to look around and ask questions. Events taking place on and around LAUD can be followed here.

The exhibition “Afterlives of Gardens” is a reflection on idyllic historic gardens and parks and contemporary interpretations of human relationships with landscape, nature and the urban environment. It is on two floors of KUMU, in the garden and on the plot of Tartu road 1. When visiting make sure to be curious, open-minded and take enough time. We especially recommend to wander around with the map in the lush green gardens of KUMU curated by Margit Säde, where sound art by artists such as Erkki Luuk & Triin Tamm, Cia Rinne (Sweden), Paul Elloman (UK), Kenneth Goldsmith (USA), Louis Lawler (USA), visual poetry by artists such as Raul Meel, Martijn in't Veld, Kadri Klementi and others is hidden in the bushes and walls. It’s a mystical jungle-like atmosphere oozing creativity and language. In addition to that, architect Katrin Koov with EKA students has given new life to abandoned gardens – plants collected from Soodevahe and elsewhere in Tallinn have become an original installation on the stairs, the fruits of which everyone is welcome to pick and eat later.

Afterlives of Gardens. Photo: Grete Veskiväli
Afterlives of Gardens. Photo: Grete Veskiväli
Afterlives of Gardens. Photo: Grete Veskiväli
Afterlives of Gardens. Photo: Grete Veskiväli
Afterlives of Gardens. Photo: Grete Veskiväli


Field notes
CAMP PIXELACHE 2013: Mobility, Diversity and Resonance

Naissaar. Expedition among nature-and-military debris. Credit Paula Velez.

The recent Pixelache Helsinki Festival, in its 12th edition, purposely spread its participants across the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn to Helsinki and from Helsinki to Tallinn, as well as from Tallinn to Naissaar island and back. The communication graphics and poster combined these three locations (Helsinki, Naissaar, Tallinn), and colour-coded the different mobilities that were registered to take place as part of the "trans-disciplinary dual-city festival". A mouthful to describe, maybe, but at the same time so would listing the multitude of interests, educational and practice-based backgrounds and origins of those who took the journey.

Pixelache is a trans-disciplinary platform for experimental art, design, research and activism, with strong influences from D.I.W.O. (Do-It-With-Others), peer-to-peer, open-source and network cultures. Our festival has been complemented in recent years by an around the year outreach and education programme, coordinated and facilitated by this author. As part of this process, making "neighbourly" contacts in the aforementioned fields of practice, developing friendships and collaboration around the Gulf of Finland, was prioritised in what I call "appropriate networking", according to resilience and sustainability issues. Many participants in this year's festival came from these actions, including both natives and immigrants to Finland and Estonia, as well as regional participants from St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad (NW Russia), Liepaja (Latvia), and Minsk (Belarus).11. For Pixelache homepage, click here.

Thanks to travel sponsorship and co-production partnerships, we could invite approximately 20 guests across from Tallinn to Helsinki for the first part of the festival; and we took over 100 guests – about half of whom were neither from Finland or Estonia – to Tallinn from Helsinki for the second half of the festival. As noted in the festival thematic "Facing North - Facing South", and the invited keynote presentation by Spatial Intelligence Unit and Kristi Grišakov in the conference room of the Viking-boat travel trip between the cities: mobility, cultural and economic exchange has been an historic and contemporary feature of Helsinki/Finnish and Tallinn/Estonian relations, and the mobility of people between these urban conurbations is more complex and diverse than these national dichotomies. This is due to the various motivations, citizenships, ethnicities, and languages which have created – and are currently creating – diverse patterns and perspectives of peer-relations and inequalities.2. Read about keynote speakers from here

Tallinn. Linnalabor’s Urban seaside tour. Credit Mari Keski Korsu
Overseas. Participants on boat Monica to Naissaar. Credit Paula Velez
Naissaar. Omari küün. Organising the vegetarians. Credit Mari Keski Korsu
Naissaar. Expedition. Photographing the island. Credit Anna Alekseychyk
Resonance workshop at the beach. Credit Mari Keski Korsu

We arranged, in collaboration with our partners, several local immersions into these complexities. First, Linnalabor was commissioned to make a guided tour around the urban "seashore" region including Kalasadam, explaining the changing attitudes to the city-sea border, including historical and contemporary urban planning and economical issues. The very misty morning weather complemented the theme by offering a fuzzy visual view of the borders between sea and city, especially as most of the attending persons were visiting Tallinn for the first time. Last minute changes to the ferry departure point to Naissaar island (the terminal apparently was not ready) added to the drama. Eight kilometres off the Estonian coast, the shroud of mist prevailed all the way until we landed. The decommissioned army trucks of Naissaar awaited to take us to our "camp" experience. The island, formally known as Nargen in German or Nargö in Swedish, had until WWII an historic Estonian-Swedish fishing community. The island’s military history has left its traces in tangible and intangible forms: military buildings, sea-mine relics, heavy minerals, and a vague 3-month period following the October Revolution when it was declared an anarcho-syndicalist autonomous republic. Closed as a military base during the Soviet period, the island has small number of permanent residents, and a population boosted in summer time with many visitors, a classical music festival initiated by well-known Estonian conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. Furthermore, the island is a respectable location as an Estonian nature conservation area.

We hoped and planned the island to be a good site for peer-relations, supporting diversity among the layers of difference between different histories, people and places. Our Camp Pixelache approach embraces an "open planning" unconference -style, where participants to finallyultimately decide on the first day themselves what to put in the schedule, including suggestions forof presentations and discussions (workshops were decided in advance). Ville Hyvönen from Pixelache organised the logistics, and arranged that we could use the Kaljuste's Omari Küün complex and Naissaare Külalistemaja hostel as main camp bases. The Camp Pixelache participants were a mix of cultural and educational professionals, activists, students, and other inbetween roles, from a variety of countries and continents – from as broad range far away as Taiwan and Indonesia to Estonia, Austria and the Netherlands, UK and USA, Colombia and Brazil. We placed advance nominations of activities and talks onto a large fabric "spreadsheet" that was attached to the side of the building: with spaces/venues along the top, and time schedule down the left-side. Dubbed by one as a the "felt excel", it served as a flexible and moveable event schedule, with "post-it" squares of felt and paper, which allowed participants to write up their ideas for events. Over two days, it was the common reference point for what people wished to do and what to take part in.

Naissaar. Hostel. Mary Mellor keynote standing. Credit Antti Ahonen
Naissaar. Omari küün. Organising scheduling using felt-excel. Credit Antti Ahonen
Naissaar. Omari küün. Grafodroom presentation. Credit Antti Ahonen
Naissaar. Walking between venues. Credit Antti Ahonen
Naissaar. Hostel. Grafodroom. Print the Island workshop. Credit Paula Velez
Naissaar. Hostel. Taavi Suisalu Solar First Aid workshop. Credit Antti Ahonen
Naissaar. Hostel. Overnight socializing. Credit Antti Ahonen

Camp Pixelache participants presented, listened to, or took part in a variety of different events over Saturday afternoon-evening, over-night, and the next day in the morning. The Trans-disciplinary themes of discussion (with or without presentations) included the role of art/artists and activism in civil society, economics, nuclear energy, alternative food consumerism, the Commons or waste issues. More media arts/design-related topics were also represented, such as presence culture in electronic arts and music; while a multi-disciplinary group joined together in an the attic room to discuss open hardware strategies. Several collectives from Tallinn presented their activities to an international audience, for example printmakers Grafodroom or electronics-hackers Hobilabor. Workshops were led on both days, for example, gathering event statistics using found objects from nature, or collectively building a solar-powered battery-charging unit: first-aid for mobile devices. The hostel terrace hosted sunny next-day discussions in the day on 3D printers, or anonymous, encrypted communication tools or love in the time of virtuality. Our keynote speaker Mary Mellor from the UK, presented eco-feminism and the future of money, sparking many questions addressed before the audience and later.

The outdoor hostel terrace and dining-room area was the site of numerous inter-personal conversations, with socialising going on throughout the night, supplemented with sauna. At various times, different expedition groups went out to the beaches, forests and military ruins to document, "print" and record the sights and sounds. A tree+numbers-based Sudoku game was invented by one who encouraged others to get involved; a "naked run to the ruins" performance took place in the middle of the night; while another group tried to catch a signal from ESTCube-1 with a home-made satellitte tracker. Activities and ideas were shared among the group as stories and anecdotes; the documented ones spreading on via social media afterwards as culture or heritage enthusiasts and tourists do these days. On parting, over lunch, different individuals made calls out for participating in future events, in Croatia, Columbia Brazil, Slovenia and Finland.

We made electronic notes from the physical "felt excel" schedule, including meta-data and presentation files related to the Camp Pixelache contributions as best as we could, plus feedback comments and documentation media links, which stays open for attendees and future browsers as a reference from here.

Notably, as a Pixelache festival event with a history in electronic arts and network culture, for approximately the 24-hour period that we were on Naissaar, there was no Internet, neither stable mobile cell phone coverage. At the spot where Bernhard Schmidt, inventor of the Schmidt telescope was born, there was little opportunity to look beyond the site we were at, and the people we were together with. As organisers, this was part of our design, as we hoped such telecommunication limitations would conversely create the space for an intense and diverse exchange, where people were fully present. Hence, old friends re-united, and new colleagues and friends were made in the process of exchanging experience and knowledge. As one participant John Hopkins encouraged: Resonance, alternative views on social networks and techno-social systems, with the aim to understand how they function and how to establish a sustainable collaborative creative practice within them. In other words: ongoing friendships, ambitions and cooperation across borders both physical and virtual. As several mentioned in their festival feedback, the moving and travelling together – via ferries, bus and on foot, plus camping and intense meeting on Naissaar – was the very subtle ice-breaker which internalised the transitions between places. The mist and the storm that moved us that weekend (from one venue to the other) helped rather than hindered. It may not have been obvious what participants were getting into, but by the end there was a definite positive affect: of all the spaces and time-periods experienced at this year's Pixelache festival days, the Naissaar period was the most appreciated. We hope this gathering of energy and inter-personal exchange will increase the ambition to collaborate and cooperate across borders, as well as our social and collective resilience to the future challenges we anticipate, such as the the societal, energy, food, economic and environmental issues highlighted in some of our discussions on Naissaar, as well as those which we do not yet know.

The final event, the welcome/returning party within the EKKM backyard organised by our partners Ptarmigan back on the Tallinn mainland, was a delightful cherry on top of the cake. As a whole, the Estonian side of Pixelache festival 2013 was an experience which many of our local and international participants will not forget. Suur aitäh!


Tallinn. EKKM. Closing party. Credit Antti Ahonen
Tallinn. EKKM. Closing party table tennis. Credit Paula Velez
Overseas. Leaving Tallinn. Credit Paula Velez

Field notes
ULDX: Between Architecture of War and Military Urbanism

Photo: Lorna Reed

26.-28. April 2013 in Tallinn

During an interview with Watanabe in 1978, Michel Foucault explained what the role of an intellectual in the 20th century should be. According to him, an intellectual’s authority does not derive from his ability to tell us truths about the world but rather from his capacity to diagnose the present and decode its signs. He therefore compared the mission of an intellectual to "the slight gesture that entails shifting the gaze" and which makes "visible what can be seen", "brings to the surface what is so closely, so directly and so intimately connected to us that we don’t see it"1 .
1. Foucault, M. (1978) The stage of philosophy, “Tetsugaku no butai” (“La scène de la philosophie”; interview with M. Watanabe, April 22, 1978), Sekai, July 1978, p. 312-332.Now, what clearly emerged from the two day conference, Between Architecture of War and Military Urbanism, held in one of Tallinn’s cultural clusters, Telliskivi, is that architecture is a fine political act which needs intellectuals of this sort, to disclose its camouflages. I think that Focault's statement is of such great topical interest that any city specialist, as it were, should be aware of it and work in order to explain in detail how the (apparently) most insignificant urban disposition affects our everyday life. It is precisely what the two keynotes Steven Flusty and Stephen Graham tried to do.

The Postmodern disposition of space in Western societies resembles more and more the paradigm of a military camp. Graham explains that there is a sort of Foucauldian ‘boomerang effect’ hitting our cities. The majority of the urban transformations that occurred in the 19th century had already been experimented with in the colonisation of cities and peripheral areas of the world. Contemporary urban space is being rapidly militarised through the extensive use of cameras for video surveillance, fences of all sorts and the disciplinary ordering of the public space. The so-called "boomerang effect" occurs when, for instance, "guided missiles and private armies work to secure key events, from the Olympics or World Cup, to G20 summits and political summits".22. Graham, S. (2013) “Foucault’s boomerang: the new military urbanism”, published on Open Democracy. Available here

3. Ibid.
 The constructions of "security zones" during summits (for example the clamorous divided and interdicted spaces in Genoa during the G8 in 2001 where the city became an open air war space), "echo the techniques used in Baghdad’s Green zone".3

What are we losing through this incessant securitisation of cities? The proliferation of fences and the stiffening of urban space which was skilfully presented and commented on by Flusty, denounce a loss of faith towards those ideas of freedom and forwardness embodied in the genealogy of the western cities for centuries. Does (still) the city air make us free -"Stadtluft macht frei", as the medieval German motto suggests - or isn’t the postmodern city becoming a huge and claustrophobic space without character and urbanity? Phenomena such as gated communities, for instance, or the disparate devices for discouraging any form of dwelling in the public space – if not coded through the everyday consumption, Zukin’s "domestication by cappuccino"44. Zukin, S. (2010) Naked city. The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 4.

5.Foucault, M. (1995) Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison, New York, Vintage, p. 227.
 – are suggesting that what is happening is not a progression towards a better sociality and conviviality but rather a new modality of late medieval "encastellation". Again, Foucault's observation: "is it surprising that the prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?"5


In Academy

The column „In Academy“ gathers a selection of master theses on urban issues defended in spring 2013. In addition to urban studies, urban governance and architecture, urban issues are relevant for study programs from varied fields, both humanities and sciences – therefore we do not dare to claim that the list is in any way complete. But it is certain that the job market will be opened to an impressive number of people who are thinking about cities. Following our intuition we chose some authors to give a closer overview of their thesis. The texts that follow are seeds, first insights to the works and themes. 

In Academy

Titles in English as used by authors

Urban Governance

Epp Vahtramäe.  Socio-cultural impacts of former industrial area revitalization on the surrounding urban space: the case of Telliskivi Loomelinnak

Mart Uusjärv. Changes and Social Impacts Arising from High-Rise Buildings in the Tallinn Maakri District

Airi Purge. The importance of public transport travel experience in assuring city region mobility: the case of Tartu–Koidula–Tartu passenger railway line


Liisa Müürsepp. Gentrification of Industrial Areas: Residential Spaces in Converted Factory Buildings in Tallinn


Department of Logistics

Sofija Rougijanin. The Connection of Airports to the City Centre

Teele Puusepp. The Prognosis of Volume of Users in Ülemiste Public Transport Hub


Urban studies

Siri Emert. Public Art and the Public. Public Art in the context of ECoC

Regina Viljasaar. Initiative “Mustamäe synthesis”: Systemic change through collaborative planning

Ulla Männi. Facing Fears in Tallinn

Kaija- Luisa Kurik. Critical Approach to Temporary Urbanism, Temporary Use and the Idea of Temporary in a City

Sander Tint. Re-framing Soodevahe, re-framing urban agriculture

Triin Pitsi. Questioning spacial justice: Property owning versus using in the case of Estonian squatting

Architecture and Urban Planning

Egon Metusala. Public Space on the Härjapea River

Taavi Põlme. Old City Harbour Passenger Terminal(s)

Tanno Tammesson. Active Living Environment on the Territory of Tallinn Kalev Stadium

Maie Raud. The Rearrangement of Tallinn Main Station - Balti jaam

Jaan Jagomägi. City Field

Kevin Villem. Skateable Place

Kristiina Remmelkoor. Cohabitation of Generations. Age-sensitive Space in the Central Quarter of Tallinn

Marja-Liisa Aasvee. Rehabilitation Centre for Youth with Drug Addiction

Olli Tapani Tallbacka. Future of School

Alvin Järving. The Gallery of Street Art

Siim Tiisvelt. New Workspace

Kadri Sauemägi. Soomaa. Possibilities for Small Cultures in a Globalizing World

Mikk Pärdi. Across the River. Development plan of the recreational area on the banks of river Emajõgi in Supilinn and Ülejõe region in Tartu

Eva Kedelauk. Abandoned Sanctuaries. Discovering Ruined Orthodox Churches in the Realm of Taboos

Marten Kaevats. Hyperlocal Dream

Mari Hunt. Arctic Natural Defence Forces


Applied Architecture

Anne Kruuse. Contemporizing Tallinn Central Market  

Andres Ristov. Reconstruction of the Ruins of Pirita    

Virgo Runno. Estonian Academy of Arts - Old Site, New Conception

Mats Põllumaa. The Atrium of Aleksander

Alvina Jagant. The Master Plan and Residential Building Design - Eco Friendly Environment in Mannheim, Germany 

Zlata Žurakovskaja. Sustainable Building Proposal for Municipality in Tønder, Denmark

Triinu Oberšneider. Station from Earth to Mars

Marek Mikk. Western Sea Center

Marianne Pärn. Kindergarten and Retirement Home at the Kolde Avenue 67

Kaia Lähker. Re-Designing of Keila City Centre  

Krista Salujärv. Arcology Skyscraper Hong Kong          

Mari Arvisto. New Opera House for Estonian National Opera 

Irina Svetlõšenko. AHHAA Science Centre in Tallinn     

Liis Mägi. Psychiatric Hospital       

Anniki Kevvai. Viimsi Concert Hall and Cultural Centre

Evelin Paimets. Tallinn Courthouse          

Reet Maidre. The Planning Proposal of Loopealne in Lasnamägi       

Jekaterina Kljutšnik. Rethinking Social Infrastructure of the Center of Ahtme District, Kohtla-Järve        

Diana Lepasson. Kindergarten and Reconstruction of St. Peter's Church School

Tanel Trepp. New Estonian Academy of Arts    

Aleksandr Maiorov. Large Scale Planning and Designing of Glucksteini Quartier House with the Energy-saving Technologies in Mannhem, Germany

Veiko Vahtrik. Green Cross           

Timo Titma. The Riverside Development Project in Pärnu      

Ats Raigla. Nõmmevärava District                        


Landscape Architecture

Kristiina Afanasjev. Connections between school programmes for landscape designing and real designer work

Tiina Aunap. Teenagers and outdoor recreation. Teenagers leisure habits, expectations and opinions about outdoor spaces

Baiba France. Blind and partially sighted people needs and suitable solutions,guidelines for street design in case of Riga`s city

Iris Jägel. Landscape performance:using performative arts in restoring historical parks

Ave Kongo. Out between blocks. How to provoke urban and community activism in post-socialist large-scale residentiala reas? On the example of Annelinn in Tartu

Kristi Kuuse. Emajõgi and Toomemägi-Landscape Layers and Narratives in Literature

Margus Lillak. Planning with views from a contemporary perspective

Kristel Mutli. Outdoors importance for elders genetation. Outdoor barriers and motivators for elderly people

Liisa Prost. The restoration of Parks during the Soviet Era According to the Epistolary and Spatial heritage of Ethel Brafmann

Siiri Römer. Case study of Rakvere

Svetlana Saikina. A park as a recreational object on a basis of historical Peterhof and Kadriorg parks

Rea Sepping. Ecologically sustainable design approach in Aulla, Italy


Landscape Architecture

Liis Alver. The importance of the dendrological inventories assessment data used in Estonia from the viewpoints of landscape architects, arborists and officials

Mariliis Mieler. Defining milieu in Kihnu through the relativistic theory of value

Eneli Niinepuu. The Impacts of Outdoor Advertising on the Streetscape and its Users

Kristian Nigul. Study on Transportation Modes of Schoolchildren and Possibilities to Encourage Active Transportation Modes at the example of Kadriorg German High School

Paula Helm. Gentrification of local district and its initial identification based on secondary data analysis: case-study of Karlova

Priit Paalo. Relief in the design of Estonian regular manor parks between 1750-1850

Kristel Ratassepp. Design Principles for Urban Square in Europe in the beginning of the 21st Century


Human Geography and Regional Planning

Kerli Müürisepp. Ethnic Segregation and Individual Activity Spaces: The Case of Estonian- and Russian-speaking Population of Tallinn

Kadi Mägi. The influence of residential segregation on migration destinations of ethnic groups: in case of out-migration from Tallinn during the period from 2000 to 2010

Anette Org. Residential diversity in Tartu city-region suburban areas. The cases of new residential areas and soviet time summer homes

Sirli Lend. Ethnic differencies in residence change in Estonia 1991-2004

Pilleriine Kamenjuk. Changes in area measures of daily activity spaces due to the change in residence according to mobile positioning data

Elen Rüütel. The Principles of Urban Change and Formation of Housing Preferences: the Case of Tartu

Tõnu Strandson. Asylum seekers’ migration to Estonia in 1997-2006

Sander Lõuk. Orientation of threshing-room dwelling houses by cardinal directions and the location in landscape

Mari-Liis Nikopensius. Children’s travel modes and risks on the way to school in Põlva county

Kristina Orlova. The geography of education service in Estonian suburban capital region

Mirjam Veiler. The influence of the location of workplace in determining the usage of city space

Geoinformatics and Cartography

Kaidi Erik. Changes in the urban areas of the Ida-Viru county with spectral mixture analysis tools

Viktor Kiik. The usability of Tartu 3D-model data using Esri CityEngine procedural modelling software (on the comprehensive plan example of Ränilinn)

Tourism Geography

Lili Kängsepp. Tour Guide as Interpreter of Tourist Destination

In Academy
Who Wants to Become a Brave Citizen?

An example of installation-like space. Scnelli park in the dark. Illusration: Ulla Männi
An example of installation-like space. Scnelli park in the daylight. Illusration: Ulla Männi

The city centre of Tallinn hides many plots and loads of land that has no use, that has lost its purpose to a lesser or greater extent and therefore is also void of people. Choices about parts of the city that will be utilised and what remains unkempt are made by us as active users of space. Recognising good or bad or dangerous spaces is a quick intuitive process for those familiar with urban life and often these choices are not even given any attention. However, these sorts of voids in the urban structure considerably undermine the quality of the environment and for that reason it is important to understand the reasons behind making these choices.

One important factor in making decisions in regards of space is fear. Research carried out as part of writing the master thesis in the Estonian Academy of Arts demonstrated that the most frequent fear that people feel in the urban space of Tallinn is the fear of being attacked, this is followed by the fear of losing or breaking one’s belongings, a fear of falling objects (mostly the icicles in the early spring) and fear of darkness. These are only a few examples of the full array of fears that direct people's behaviour.

Many of those experiences of fear are justified in certain situations and undoubtedly the feeling of fear is one of the central pillars of longevity in humans, that prevents careless behaviours towards oneself and does not let adrenalin guide us too much. However, are all fears in urban space justified?

In general, contemporary cities are striving towards a safer and more comfortable future and  because of that all signs of threat are often deleted when designing a shared space. The most important strategy aimed to raise safety in the last 50 years has been Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, that works in designing urban space by minimizing threats by spatial design tools. The practice has demonstrated that eliminating threats really does make the space safer, but the price of this might be the citizen's estrangement from their inherent system of senses. A living environment that is safeguarded to the bone also eliminates the opportunity to learn from direct experience. Instead of that the tendency to trust existing solutions and habits in evaluating one’s risks is enforced. Society needs a little bit of shaking – new possibilities of having direct experiences that would objectively turn our attention to the present moment and the need for re-evaluating fixed fears related to urban space.

If we think about the nature of fear, then it is a guess that is based on previous experiences and beliefs that in certain conditions the situation is potentially dangerous. Those beliefs can come from stories we have heard, media and other mediated sources that are malleable in conveying the truth. This is how the sensed criteria for evaluating fears become more and more sensitive even when there is no real threat. We can say that fear, especially in the context of the contemporary living environment, is often illusionary and only indirectly connected to real danger.

To get rid of the illusion we need to uncover the deceiving nature of fear. Freud's theory of the uncanny11. Freud, S; The Uncanny; 1919; download from here is also connected with past experiences – in terms of theory, the uncanny is something that we consider scary or uncomfortable, but at the same time exciting and that we know through out previous fear-experiences. These kind of situations exist independently, but it is also possible to reproduce them by creating a certain unstable environment where the border between reality and fantasy is unclear. Instead of eliminating fears from urban space, one option for solving the problem could be emphasising them in order to direct attention to the question of being too fearful and offer those who are willing to take the opportunity to face their fears from a safe distance.

Utilising problematic parts of the city, I suggested installations like "educational spaces" in my master thesis, each of which focuses on a different fear and offers a chance to oppose those fears in an educational, experimental and perhaps even fun manner. In designing the space it is important to take into account that interactivity would make it possible for the user to take part in the "training" or stay away from it – the opportunity to pass the project from a safe distance needs to be there.

So, the fear of being attacked could be addressed with an artificial but recognizably dangerous space, that creates an impression of being followed in the dark. With a closer look and in the light of day the deception would be revealed and this directs us to re-evaluate our fears. 

In order to make the effect of the educational space lasting in people's consciousness and awareness, it is important to make sure that these interventions are long term. In the space under question the project has to be also observed over a long period and the results documented. Only when the planned lifespan of the installation is over, it will be possible to make conclusions and offer the best permanent solutions for the concrete space based on results.

When the test projects turn out to be effective, some other parts of the urban space can be taken under observation following the fears and spatial elements characteristic to a certain place.

Through the described long term process the stages of acknowledging and stages of fighting the fears will be elaborately worked through. The result of this process is a new and thoroughly analysed solution. The system is a journey, at the end of which inhabitants are awarded for getting over their fears with a better urban space. The nature of the final spatial intervention does not have to be directly connected to the initial installation and it can be whatever kind of object, because the more distant purpose of the initial installation is overcoming the fear that also ends the lessons. It can be predicted that a more permanent solution can be a building or a green area, or also a new installation that looks at other problems that might emerge. We can only be certain of this after the fear training has happened. By overcoming urban fears one by one it is possible to delete urban voids and slowly but continuously move towards a safer living environment.



In Academy
Integrating Social Impact Assessment Into Planning Practice

This spring three students from the urban governance program in Tallinn University defended their master theses. Two papers out of those dealt with the paradigm of social impact assessment – a field that has so far gained little attention in Estonian spatial planning. Epp Vahtramäe studied, based on the example of the Telliskivi Creative Cluster, the sociocultural effects of regeneration of former industrial areas and the attitude of the inhabitants in general towards this kind of spatial change. Mart Uusjärv analysed the social impact assessment approach in the planning of Maakri area by assessing the changes and social impacts that have occured after building the high-rises.

Social impacts are understood as effects, resulting from certain developments, that are sensed by an individual, a family unit or a community, on a material or non-material level. For example, effects on people's health, social well-being, security, accessibility of public services, cultural values, community relations, participation traditions. Assessing Social Impact combines analysing social outcomes of planned changes, monitoring and management. This is a process that gives the decision makers information about the potential outcomes of planned developments already in the planning phase.

Both authors came to the understanding that social impact has so far been modestly dealt with in spatial planning and found that, in order to make sustainable planning decisions, integrating a social impact assessment into local planning practice should be considered. For example mapping the local community's profile could be considered in order to get an overview of the inhabitants who will be influenced and evaluate the changes occurring in the community's structure and following impacts. Another possibility would be to implement a participatory approach by consulting people who will eventually be influenced already in the early stages. This would enable to reach all the inhabitants, not only those who take part in public displays of plans and help to define potential site specific impacts.

One of the closest examples of practising social impact assessment can be found from Finland, the town of Jyväskylä, where the first steps in assessing social impact were made already in the middle of the 1990s. In the beginning of the 2000s they began integrating the principles of the social impact assessment into the planning process. For example they carried out thematic analyses in order to define the impacts of planned developments on services, demographic profile and safety in the area, using participatory principles by organising separate meetings with different social groups in the area (for example pensioners).

It is important that in local planning practice, next to the physical level, more attention is given to the social level so that the developers and planners would realise the necessity of evaluating social impacts. In any case, implementing principles of social impact assessment in Estonian spatial planning, invites discussion and poses a challenge in the form of compiling guiding materials and training experts.

Hopefully the master theses will give an impulse for the discussion and further development. If somebody has a wish to look at these theses or discuss further about social impact assessment you can get in touch:  eppvahtramae@gmail.com ja martuusjarv@gmail.com.

In Academy
Changes in Area Measures of Daily Activity Spaces due to the Change in Residence According to Mobile Positioning Data

People have always been interested in their location in space, the environment they live in and where they are concentrated. Migration is one of the main effecting processes. In addition, during recent decades questions have emerged about the places that people visit daily, how they move and what are the distances? Thereat residential location choice directs the way we use space and where we spend time and travel. Therefore these two phenomena – migration and everyday mobility – are closely liked, and it is important to understand their impact on one another. In addition to that, the classical definition of migration, which is changing the place of residence over a certain spatial unit for a longer period, does not describe (due to the increasing mobility both on a physical and virtual level) the variety that is included in changing our place of residence.

Previously the connections between changing place of residence and everyday mobility have been more thoroughly looked at in the context of movements taking place between the workplace and place of residence, but research has not focused on the wider activity space, that also includes the activities and movements that are part of leisure time. One reason for this has been the lack of relevant data that would enable studying spatial patterns of people over a longer perspective and comparing it from the point of view of changing the place of residence. Today we have a possibility to use a new source of data for this – passive mobile phone positioning data11. Ahas R, Silm S, Järv O, Saluveer E, Tiru M (2010). Using mobile positioning data to model locations meaningful to users of mobile phones. Journal of Urban Technology 17(1): 3–27.. Using a passive mobile phone positioning database enables the description of long term movements, like migration, and short term movements, like everyday mobility. Additionally, it enables the connection of those different levels of movements together. This makes it possible to be more dynamic when trying to understand the migration event, as in addition to a change of residence it is possible to follow the accompanying changes in the daily activity space of an individual.

Basically, the positioning database is a massive database of location data that is based on the locations of anonymous phone users in the network of mobile phone operator EMT. Based on the number of these locations it is possible to determine an individual's physical presence in space and time, which in turn makes describing the space-time mobility of people and finding patterns in those movements possible. Huge work has been done by the people in the mobility lab of the geography department of Tartu University and spin-off enterprise Positium LBS, who have developed the anchor point model, that enables to map individual’s most important everyday locations, i.e. anchor points. Thereat it is possible to distinguish likely places of residence from other visited places. Earlier, the mobility lab in Tartu University has used passive mobile positioning data to study the seasonal variability of a population and concrete time periods (for example big events), to describe tourists visits to Estonia and to and from travelling, etc.

The aim of my master thesis was to give an estimation on the size of activity spaces of Estonians who have different social-demographic characteristics and whose residences are located on different levels of the settlement  hierarchy, and to observe if and how the change of residence affects the size of their activity spaces. In addition to that I compared the activity spaces of those who change their place of residence and those who don’t. For estimating the changes in people's daily central gravity point22. Roseman CC (1971) Migration as a spatial and temporal process. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 61(3): 589–598.

3. Ibid.
, i.e. the location of home,  I developed a methodology that would enable to look at changes in place of residence based on the available database3, i.e. the location of home.

Understanding the size of the activity space gives an evaluation of how are places that are important to people situated and what are the distances they are willing and forced to travel in visiting them. One of the main results of my thesis was that the activity spaces of those who have not changed place of residence are generally smaller than those who have, this might indicate that those who do change place of residence are also more mobile daily. Men and Estonians (compared to other nationalities living in Estonia) have bigger activity spaces, activity space becomes smaller with ageing. People who live in bigger cities generally have a smaller activity space than people living in the countryside, at the same time the differences were not that big amongst those who have changed place of residence in connection with living in the city or in the hinterland. The change in residence did not have an effect on the size of an activity space. This means that there was not a clear trend when after changing the place of residence the size of an activity space would definitely increase or diminish. But looking at a concrete direction, then when moving to the city from a distance of more than 30 km would make the activity space smaller and vice versa, when moving out of town it would increase.

In addition to understanding the spatial mobility of people this knowledge could help in making local political decisions and enable the provision of better services. With a growing physical mobility, environmental questions emerge – maybe it would be somehow possible to direct people's movements and make them more optimal, so that we could burden the environment less.

Many new and interesting questions and themes, that require further research and elaboration in order to understand the connections between change in residence and the development of activity space came out when writing the thesis. But all in all, the database has potential and combining it with other methods would enable a deeper understanding of the behaviour of people in space and time.




Keiti Kljavin, Kaija-Luisa Kurik.


Kaija-Luisa Kurik, Keiti Kljavin, Kaisa Kaer, Annika Haas, Paul Emmet, Andra Aaloe.


Andreas Wagner, Andra Aaloe, Maria Derlõš.


Andra Aaloe, Lewis McGuffie.


Steven Flusty, Gregor Taul, Mari Luukas, Annika Haas, Marika Agu, Grete Veskiväli, Eve Arpo, Andrew Gryf Paterson, Pasquale Cancellera, Ulla Männi, Epp Vahtramäe, Mart Uusjärv, Pilleriine Kamenjuk, Kerli Müürisepp. 


Kaisa Kaer, Marek Tamm, Kristian Nigul, Nele Nutt, Eneli Niinepuu, Lorna Reed, Kerli Müürisepp, Epp Vahtramäe, Lauri Täht, Kadri Vaher,  Keiu Talve, Sirje Joala, Viktor Gurov, Marie Kliiman, Karmen Otu, Panu Lehtovuori, Maroš Krivy, Anna-Liisa Unt,  Merle Karro-Kalberg.


Andra Aaloe, Lewis McGuffie.