In Tallinn recently for a conference, I took a chance to go for a long walk from the old medieval city centre to an ancient forest to the east. I took a meandering route to Kadriorg Forest, along the oversized roads and undistinguished housing blocks that are the typical stains left by Soviet-era planning guidelines; wide enough for tanks, and possibly aircraft, and little use to the contemporary city.
While there are several distinguishing features along the route—the appealing wall-bound statues that fuse bust and typography, a vaguely Metabolist housing block opposite a thrusting modernist chapel, a great deli and coffee shop, and some lovely old wooden houses and masonry blocks, half of which are disintegrating, half are being renovated or rebuilt, near the stadium as you approach the park—I was heading for the KUMU art gallery and an installation in the trees.
Heading beyond the ponds, playgrounds and formal landscaping around the palace at the edge of Kadriorg park, the forest itself is immediately quietly extraordinary. It’s been there for centuries, and there’s something graceful and majestic about the scale of the trees, particularly with autumn ablaze in the leaves, viewed from the long avenues cut through the woods.
KUMU, designed by Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori, was excellent, but the installation was magical. Designed by Tetsuo Kondo Architects, it was a floating ramp hoisted up into the forest, a 95 metre long white steel walkway suspended from the trees themselves. Rather than sitting on columns, it was simply supported by brackets attached to tree trunks.
(In this, it reminded me a little of Australian architect Andrew Maynard’s proposal for treehouses I wrote about five years ago, co-opting his protest structures for Battersea Power Station.)
Given its slender profile and lack of columns, the ramp was barely visible until close up. There were only a few signs, with a smart silhouette identity, to announce its presence. I was lucky to catch it in autumn—I'm not sure how long it's around for.