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THE RIVER Jõekaare Residential Tower, Tartu, Estonia

Jõekaare Residential District is a project that came out as the winning scheme of an invited international competition, in 2006. The site is located on a former industrial area in the southern suburbs of the 100 000 inhabitants’ City of Tartu. It is characterized by its exceptional position on a peninsular of the central Estonian Emajõgi river; overlooking the spectacular landscape of a natural reserve at its opposite side.
The River Tower is the first realized building of the scheme, the construction ended in August 2008.  When finished, expected in 2014, a total of nine buildings with 440 apartments and approximately 1 000 inhabitants will be settled there.

URBAN CONCEPT: A NEIGHBORHOOD Due to the suburban position of the site it was necessary to design a distinctive neighbourhood where people can appreciate the advantages of their individuality but also enjoying a sense of community and a sense of togetherness.
Responding to the situation given by the urban and natural environment, we developed two types of buildings. While the one along the riverside represents the villa type (The River Tower), the other, facing the city, tends to be a more urban type (The City Slab). The orientation and position of the buildings is designed in order to enable an optimum of view and privacy for all apartments but also creating a central public plaza in between, ideal for community interaction and for children’s play.

The river towers themselves can be described as ‘stacked villas’. This design combines all of the economic and ecological advantages of living in an urban apartment house with the benefits of a suburban single-family house: its spaciousness, flexibility, stand-alone privacy, its setting and views, and the sense of private property. However, the construction and maintenance costs are much lower, and families in particular can enjoy the maintained garden and thriving community location.

All buildings are organised in a very clear and compact way. Each building is conceived as a box with an optimum volume-surface ratio. The lobby, with the staircase and its thin and spiral atrium occupies the centre of the building. The apartments are distributed around this centre like a ring with a clear separation in two zones. The most internal ring that contains services: entrances, wardrobes, toilets, bathrooms, saunas, and sometimes kitchens. All infrastructural elements are compressed in this area, providing economic distances for installations as well as an effective noise barrier to the lobby. The second zone is the external living ring, orientated towards the sun and the landscape. Here are accommodated bedrooms and living rooms, separated by lightweight walls without any load bearing elements. Flexibility is the basic concept, since these rooms can be easily changed or reshuffled to suit the owners’ wishes or needs. Each apartment posses a large terrace that open onto the river and stunning countryside; yet entirely private from neighbours.

* in collaboration with Bramberger Architects

Photos: Lukas Schaller