BRUTAL II – Linnahall

Since first releasing my zine BRUTAL I had always wanted to make it a series, each issue featuring a different building that I had photographed. Deciding on the Tricorn for the first was easy. It was a local building with a history and had caused much debate in the city of Portsmouth. There was also a large community of people who appreciated brutalism and the now demolished Tricorn held a special place in their hearts.

BRUTAL - The Tricorn

My concept for BRUTAL came together nicely. I had recently discovered my old negatives in my Dad’s loft and about the same time I heard about Silver Pan Lab who would be able to scan the negatives into digital copies. While finding other enthusiasts online I had come across Nick Coupland, an artist that drew brutal architecture in fantastic detail. After contacting him he kindly let me use his image of the Tricorn for the cover.

The Tricorn - Nick Coupland
The Tricorn by Nick Coupland

The reception to BRUTAL was excellent, far exceeding anything I had imagined, I even had to get it reprinted a few times. I had now been photographing brutalist buildings and other architecture solidly for two years by this point but couldn’t decide on my next point of focus.

Demolition had started on Welbeck Street Car Park and I had managed to get up to London to photograph the building before any damage had been done. I had also photographed other buildings in London, including the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate and the Barbican Centre, both on a very miserable winter’s day.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall
Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate
BRUTAL II - Linnahall
The Barbican Centre

My travels also took me up north to Sheffield where I gazed upon the Arts Tower its facade of never ending windows. Then Hull where I was able to photograph BHS/Co Op Building and its mural by Alan Boyson that was at that point in danger of demolition as the building was planned for redevelopment.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall
BHS/Co Op Building, Hull
BRUTAL II - Linnahall
Arts Tower, Sheffield

I had all these places in mind but I never felt that there was a story to tell, especially in some cases one that hadn’t been told already. It wasn’t until I saw the movie Tenet that it all fell into place again. In the opening scene the exterior and interior of a building I had become quite familiar was featured. In the movie it was the Kiev National Opera House but in reality it was Linnahall, a disused culture and sports venue in Tallinn.

The last time I had been in Tallinn I was unable to visit Linnahall as its exterior had been fenced off so that it could be prepared for the shooting of an upcoming movie, the rumours were that it was for a Christopher Nolan film. These rumours turned out to be true.

I went home and looked through my archive of photos.  Taken over a number of visits my photographs of Linnahall spanned about five years, the best part was that they documented the building through different seasons as well as in different stages of disrepair.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall
Linnhall, Tallinn

Once I began my research into Linnahall I found that it actually had a complex and interesting history. Any information on the building is hard to come by, especially during those years that it was in use, and the reasons behind its construction even more so. The building was connected to a much larger development in Tallinn prior to the 1980 Moscow Olympics and held concerts up until 2009, since then it has been out of use.

For years Linnahall and the mystery behind the building has fascinated me. I have tried on many occasions to visit the interior of the building and even came close once but due to the difficulty travelling this year that will have to wait. If it still remains possible is another question entirely.

My photographs of the exterior were so extensive I knew that I would be able to tell the story of the building I wanted to without images of the interior. To be honest that would be a whole different story. I have now put together a series of images that reflect Linnahall’s size and scale, its mystery, its fortress like design, but above all its struggle to be saved.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall

Further reading:

BRUTAL II is available to order now. It is an A5 zine featuring my black and white photographs of Linnahall taken over a five year period. There are currently a handful of copies of BRUTAL featuring the Tricorn left.

I look to cover more about Tallinn and this period of construction prior to the Moscow Olympics but in the meantime you can read my post A winter’s Day in Tallinn’s Old Town.

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