Tartu Depatment Building “KVARTAL”
By Tanel31-08-2016Popularity:26510 Comments

Design: Kadarik Tüür Arhitektid OÜ, Kadri Tamme Sisearhitektuur OÜ
Client: TTK Investeeringud OÜ
Location: Tartu, Estonia
Structural design: AS Tari
Builder: Rand ja Tuulberg AS
Gross useable floor space: 54 637 m²
Lot size: 10797 m²
Start of work: 2013
Completion of work: 2015 [first phase(commercial areas)]
Structure in: Concrete
Floor: Concrete, tile, wood
Walls surfaces: Concrete, wood, brick, copper, panels for interior public walkways.
Photographs: Ott Kadarik
website: http://kta.ee/tartu-kaubamaja


Competition, that was won in 2013, was held to find the best architectural and urban solution for the area between Riia, Turu, Aleksandri and Soola street (also known as Tartu’s Old Department Store).

Department store Kvartal is situated in a very prominent area. Historically the city block consisted of low-rise private houses and smaller apartment buildings built out of wood and stone. The block was functionally diverse – there was living, working and leisure, all mixed into one. During the marchbombings of Tartu in the World War II, the buildings were destroyed and in 1966 a department building was erected next to Riia street (architect Uno Sisa). Former city block consisting of smaller buildings was replaced with a more monumental volume and a new approach to urban planning arose. Small-town scale slowly shifted, a new paradigm emerged and paved the way for larger volumes.

Soon a new building for consumerism appeared and recent urban planning methods in the given area culminated in Emajõe business center and Tallinn’s Kaubamaja Tartu branch’s new building. The latter mentioned buildings with their scale and program have created a situation, where small-town center is dominated by gigantic buildings with blank facades.

To re-create the city center we designed the building volume horisontically and vertically. We created powerlines such as cornices, height of the roofs, street line and so on, making sure not to repeat the past mistakes. The solution avoids the addition of one monotonous and unarticulated building volume to already congested cityscape. The goal was to bring back the quarterly and human–scale building, which would be worthy of its location and wouldn’t resemble shopping malls which are located on the outskirts of Central European cities.

Varied and articulated facade is achieved with simple programatic method, where residential and office blocks are wrapped around the commercial core. Such a placement of residential and office units gives them better views and logistics. So the commercial area that does not need direct light from the windows, will be minimized on the outer layers of the building.


Plot is located in the city center of Tartu and surrounded by department stores and office buildings. In the vicinity there is the courthouse, Vanemuise theater and the bus station. The plot is surrounded by Riia and Turu street which are heavily used by drivers, Soola and Aleksandri street are mainly access roads.

Kvartal has good connections to the surrounding city districts because of the close proximity of the bus station. This provides good access for the public and makes for an easy visit. Underground parking also makes Kvartal very accessible to car users. Entrances are in the most important intersections.

The area is suitable for a department store, because the surrounding buildings serve a public function and are easily integrated to the functions that Kvartal offers. Being located in the most active zone in Tartu, it acts as a link, which adds quality to the city center.


The architectural concept of the project is derived from an urban planning idea, where the department store is wrapped inside the residential and office volumes. The complex, which core consists of commercial and outer layer from residential and office parts, is a layered structure, which offers different spacial experiences and surprising functional relationships in every layer. By playing with the program and bringing the residential and office units to the outer layer, we were able to make a department store with multitude of openings. This solution helped to disguise the department store. Kvartal resembles a city block with diverse functions unlike the department buildings next to it. The large volume is articulated with different materials, articulated facades, details and different functions.

Smaller and larger shops and restaurants open directly to the surrounding streets creating an intimate and active street milieu. Different functions have separate entrances from the basement and street level. Seperate entrances lead to the offices, apartments, hotels, SPA and department store. These staircases are cross-used only in emergency situations.

SPA is situated in the core of the building and opens up to Riia street.

Technical rooms are distributed on the basement level and on the second floor.

Parking is on the basement levels. A service area and entrance to the parking levels is situated on the south side. Additional entrance to the basement levels is from Turu street, which is meant for the public.

To differentiate the department store from the residential and office blocks different finishes have been used. This also creates an articulated and varied street level. Commercial facade has bigger openings, aligned reflective windows and respectable glossy facade cladding. For the corner parts different finishes have been used, such as concrete, brick, wood and copper panels.

The building is built with simple and traditional methods. Loadbearing reinforced concrete is used. Interior walls are built with small block or framing.

Interior architecture:

Inspiration for the interior architecture is derived from Oldtown and from the previous city block. The historic methods are manifested in the details. Storefronts flirt with historic shopfront decoration elements, which are stilyzed to be minimalistic and form a whole. Shop fronts are made up of different wood panels with windows in different sizes. The shop owners have the opportunity to assemble different modules that best fit the concept of their store. This results in the harmony between the shop fronts and the areas next to it. Ceiling consists of inverted pitched roofs - forming reflective surfaces. Interior elements mimic the exterior elements.

key: Tartu Depatment Building, Estonian design
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