The Tallinn Wet City project constitutes the first step in the articulation of a new blue-green planning strategy for the Estonian capital. The proposed urban narrative recognises the challenges posed by rising sea levels as well as the opportunities offered by the redevelopment of the Paljassaare Peninsula, a unique urban terrain where wilderness and infrastructures form hybrid aquatic ecosystems.
The project, conceived for Tallinn Biennale of Architecture 2017 curated by Dr. Claudia Pasquero, envisions a new urban centre emerging on the Peninsula from the advanced processing of the city’s waste. Designed as a symbiotic anti-city, its urban fabric would co-evolve present day Tallinn and redefine its entire urban metabolism.
The Paljassaare Peninsula, at the outskirts of Tallinn, is a former Soviet military base that was abandoned after Estonia became an independent country. Nature and especially birds then re-settled on it in close proximity to the main wastewater treatment plant for Tallinn which occupies the central section of the peninsula. Ever since the area has been recognised as part of the Natura2000 network of European sites of significant ecological value, a political power struggle started among the plant management and birdwatchers / ecologists claiming the plant is contaminating the reserve. It is a classic case of green vs. dark ecology. But curiously enough, birds do not see it that way. Upon visiting the site in autumn 2016, we filmed them in the warm and nutritious waters of the bio-digestion tanks of the waste water treatment facilities where they seemed to enjoy playing with its large filtering machines.
Our narrative consciously starts from the birds’ perspective or, rather a non-anthropocentric perspective, and develops it into a proposal that recognises the ecological nature of Tallinn’s urban wastewater infrastructure and its impact on the biotic substratum of the entire City.
In our vision the inevitable process of contamination becomes a morphogenetic force, inducing an artificial hyper-articulation of the landscape and its living systems which evolve into a digestive membrane.
Pathogens are re-metabolized, diluted or captured by augmented ecosystems. Infrastructural networks thicken into filtering surfaces, which in turn fold into convoluted epidermis populated by a large amount of biochemical reactors. The urban biome of Tallinn and the marine biome of the Baltic recombine into a bio-informational Anthropocene Island.
Phase1 - Ground
The phase1 project for the redevelopment of the Paljassaare Peninusla proposes the morphological hyper-articulation of the existing landscape and its living systems. ecoLogicStudio has designed a synthetic urban landscape constantly monitored via Satellite with a built-in feedback mechanism informing the city’s wastewater network in real-time. Each molecular transaction has its spatial location, morphological effect, informational address and economical value.
ESA (European Space Agency) supplyed ecoLogicStudio Level1 data from the Satellite Sentinel2 and 3 at resolution of 10x10 metre for an area of 10x10km framing the entire city. Each pixel is representing a degree of biochemical activity defined as "wetness" and computed with the Normalised Difference Water Index algorithm. This analysis can be performed in real-time and reveals the urban landscape as a living body with dynamic changes in time.
The resulting data-feed is indexed and plotted as a gradient field on site. At specific locations along its ISO lines ecological tendencies are computed. Longest lines appear in areas of highest difference in wetness or biological activity. Such locations possess maximum potential for thickening and articulating into biochemical reactors.
The 2000 wettest and more active locations are networked to form a new, distributed, infrastructure or proto-filtering gardens. These provides the substratum for further development in the Paljassaare Peninsula.
Phase2 - Air
As these prototypical bundles for wastewater purification and sludge bio-digestion emerge they are equipped with active bio-technological units constantly cultivating their artificial substratum; the system is monitored in real-time sending information about the status of its internal metabolism and receiving updates from the wastewater treatment network. Its operations are constantly altered and adjusted by distributed sensing /feeding machines (cyber-worms).
The articulation of the existing landscape determines directions of flow and purification as well as emergent active bio-digesters. As the process of digestion generates nutrients and heat a new microclimate and related habitat emerges and differentiates. Growing plants, insects and birds are attracted and become active agents of urban transformation.
Where natural gas production, heat generation and nutrients metabolising will reach tipping point new enclosures will be erected, microlimatic urban islands to be inhabited on a permanent basis. These new urban super-blocks will be symbiotic of their counterpart in central Tallinn. They will be fed by the old city's waste and in turn feedback natural gas and fertile soil.
The Paljassaare peninsula will keep evolving into an anti-centre of the old Tallinn, a densely inhabited synthetic garden populated by an assemblage of humans, animals, machines and other hybrid systems.