What is Linnalabor?

Keiti Kljavin & Kadri Koppel

My name is Keiti. And my name is Kadri. And we are from Estonian Urban Lab. Or in Estonian Linnalabor. And the place we are sitting is Telliskivi Creative Quarter. It is a former industrial area, which is now revitalized or regenerated as a place for creative industries. And this exact place is a former site-specific installation, which can be now used for example for interviews.

This place here has many creative offices. And Estonian Urban Lab is actually one of the first renters. We have been here for more than 5 years. So the floor in which started this Creative Quarter was the floor where we had our office. Now we have moved but we were one of the first. We saw the place when it did not have like 5 restaurants and 1000 hipsters per night. So it was quite a different place back then.

But I think it is a very good example of maybe a little bit more positive gentrification where this process has happened step by step. And where people started first to use the space and coming here. And then it was further developed instead of putting a lot of money to developing a real estate and then trying to figure out how to get people coming here.

In our organization we won’t define ourselves as a creative industry. We are more or less like a specific organization that deals with urban issues. And really different ones actually. We have been trying to define ourselves but we also realized that we maybe even do not have to do it. Because it is quite cool to define your aims year by year. I think for organization it is something that keeps you motivated as well. So you are not labeled or you are not put in a box of, yeah, you are not architects but you deal with only urban activists. So we are the people who are on spot on than current time, who are behind the project, who are the face of Urban Lab. But for sure what we do is that we with our activities, with our projects we have raised awareness of what urban living is and what is the citizen’s role in being a part of urban life, what is a life between buildings, what are the streets for. We talk about public transportation, education for kids, participatory planning. And we are not afraid of collaboration with the state or with local municipality. We have had project that for example had a thought of the space of the whole country. We had the project called The Space Idea, which was a kind of strategic planning in itself. But next to that we had a project that really dealt with really a small city in Tallinn with the center of small city and what to do there. What are the ideas of the local inhabitants? And next to the ideas of local inhabitants we had like 15 property owners and what are their aims. So we are basically mediating, collaborating, making the city better. This is actually something that we are very proud of because we did it for almost 18 months together with the small municipality. And it was a process, that never before happened in Tallinn, where the municipality brings a group of specialists that help them to bring together the entire community to kind of revision together what their city center could be like. And also one thing, which I think is really cool we do, is that we have a magazine. Do we say we have a magazine now? Yes, in English we can say a magazine. But it is called Estonian Urban Review. It is the only bilingual non-academic more like a something in between. So independent review that deals with the urban issues. And for example we had an issue about post-socialist cities or we had a special issue about Berlin or Helsinki. So we are free of our choices. We are just independent magazine.

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