Letter from Estonia
Estonia's contemporary architecture scene is not only feverishly fertile at the moment - even in the current downturn - but, in terms of diversity of design, many of its recent achievements are quite remarkable.
This is perhaps due in no small part to the rise of a young (and dynamic) generation of architects since Estonian Independence in 1991, when the country emerged from a protracted period of occupation - most notably by the Soviet Union.
A sense of freedom in terms of architectural expression is palpable and, as a result, a whole slew of buildings, embracing experimentation and innovation, have formed an intrinsic part of the rapid program of economic, social and cultural reform that followed the country's independence.
Key contemporary buildings - including Head's Tartu Kindergarten and Museum of Occupations in Tallinn; SALTO's recently unveiled Sportshall for the Estonian University of Life Sciences; and the remarkable AIA housing development in Tallinn by Kosmos - evince a sensitivity to site and tradition, yet formally and intellectually, they respond with an energy bordering on bravura.
Elsewhere, Muru and Pere's Suurupi House and Koko's Roseni 7 development acknowledge that a nod to the avant-garde can work in both private and public realms. And Emil Urbel's bespoke contemporary villas, as domestic dwelling exemplars, could feature on any global design stage.
Estonia has, for the best part of 20 years, been able to nurture a unique and dynamic architectural culture. Hopefully, this wave of achievements will continue to flourish.