In 1974 the Soviet Union won the bid to become the host of the 1980 summer Olympics. As its host city Moscow is miles inland a location was needed where the sailing events could be held. At this time Estonia, among other countries, was a part of the Soviet Union and its capital Tallinn was chosen.
During the years leading up to the Moscow Olympics Tallinn saw a boom in construction. The airport was expanded, the twenty-eight storey Hotel Olümpia and a 314m TV tower were built, as well as the Tallinn Olympic Yachting Centre in Pirita where the event would be held, even the medieval old town was given a makeover.
During this period construction began on a multipurpose cultural centre on a large area of land next to the sea. The design was from architects Raine Karp and Riina Altmäe. The building was completed and opened in 1980 with the name V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports. Under its concrete and limestone form the building held a 4,200 seat amphitheater, an ice hall, an exhibition space and dance hall.
The building was specifically designed so it didn’t interrupt views of Tallinn’s old town from the sea. It is also said, like many other Soviet buildings of the time, that the design and position next to the sea would allow for the building to be fortified easily. Its wide walkways and stairs would make the tiered platform roof accessible for tanks and other armaments if needed.
When Estonia regained independence in 1991, with the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, the building was renamed Linnahall but by then it had seen its best days. It continued to hold concerts even as the building began to fall into disrepair. After its last concert in 2009 Linnahall was closed and even though the building has heritage protection for its cultural significance its future remains uncertain as the city searches for investment.
My zine exploring the exterior of Linnahall is now available to order. It features black and white photographs taken over several visits to the building.
While living in Helsinki I was able to visit Tallinn easily, it was only a short and fairly inexpensive ferry trip away. Linnahall quickly became a fascination of mine. During each trip I would take a route from the ferry terminal to the old town that allowed me to walk across the stairs and staggered platform roof of the building. It later allowed me to explore new areas of the city, including Kalamaja and Telliskivi.
I first visited Linnahall five years ago and have been to the building on almost every trip to the city. It has allowed me to photograph the building during different stages of its decline but also during different times of the year.
This photo series features in my new zine exploring the exterior of Linnahall. The effects of time was a huge factor behind my images and with this series of images it allows for a clear comparison.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The following was written roughly four years ago after my first visit to Linnahall.
Slowly decaying on a small section of Tallinn’s coast is Linnahall, an old sports and concert venue built in 1980. The venue was built as part of the Olympics that took place in Moscow in the same year. At this time Estonia was apart of the Soviet Union and as Moscow didn’t have a suitable location to hold the sailing events Tallinn was chosen.
When the venue was completed it was named V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport but after Estonia’s independence it was changed to Linnahall.
There was little sign of life and I was the only one walking around. At the entrance there were a few cars parked outside but I had no idea where the owners would have gone. If the offices inside were used I thought to myself what a miserable place to work.
Who knows when Poseidon saw its last customers. Not much of a night out now.
You can walk fairly freely around the building as long as you can navigate the maze of stairs, many of which still lead to a dead end or locked gate.
What surprised me most about Linnahall was that the building was completed in 1980, and from the looks of things, it was abandoned almost right away. I know 1980 was actually sometime ago and more likely the venue has been used more recently.
It seems like such a waste to leave a large and interesting building to go unused but it happens everywhere, especially when it comes to buildings built for the Olympics. My visit to Linnahall has sparked my interested and I am keen to learn more about the building and what the city has planned for its future.
As with any building left to sink into disrepair, Linnahall has attracted a fair amount of attention from graffiti artists, some of it better than others.
Views of St Olaf’s Church and Tallinn’s medieval old town can be seen as it’s only a short distance away.
From the outside it is difficult to tell what Linnahall is all about. The crumbling and graffitied walls, the locked doors and barred windows, are hiding the secrets of what lies within. Unfortunately, that will have to wait for another time.
After five years of visits and photographs I have put together my second zine in my BRUTAL series, this time featuring Linnahall.
My photographic journey into Brutalism continues with:
Clovelly is a small harbour town in North Devon. What makes it interesting, among other things, is that there are no cars in the town. Visitors must park outside the town and pay an admittance to enter, while access to the harbour is down a steep cobbled walking street.
Walking into the town along the Coast Path you follow the purpose built Hobby Drive, a three mile long passion project of Sir James Hamlyn Williams, and bypass the entrance fee. Heading down the cobbled street you walk through a row of houses, many of which are listed buildings, towards the harbour.
Like many places in North Devon Clovelly has a long history with fishing, dating all the way back to the 13th century when the first quay was built. Throughout the town there are signs of the towns important historical ties to fishing.
Visiting the picturesque village was a highlight of this stretch of the Coast Path and even with our heavy packs we decided to descend down to the harbour knowing fully well that we would have to make the climb back up.
As you leave Clovelly heading west on the Coast Path there are a few other notable locations to look out for. Two of my highlights were Angel Wings, a beautiful and intricately detailed resting place. The other is Blackchurch Rock which is often spotted as you walk along the coast. When the tide is out at Mouthmill you are able to get up close to the unique rock at sea level.
The South West Coast Path is largely just a series of ups and downs. So many in fact that once you have completed the 630 miles of path you could have scaled Mount Everest four times! The path is often described as strenuous with certain sections featuring repetitive ups and downs.
Any height that is painfully gained as you walk the SWCP is often immediately lost as you descend straight back to almost sea level. During one stretch to Port Isaac that the guide book described as ‘arduous’ we had climbed three hills each time dropping back down to sea level, all within half an hour and over a distance of less than a mile.
This series is a documentation of those incredible views over valleys and hills before making those strenuous ascents that the path is notorious for.
A Series of Ups and Downs is a continuation of my attempt to walk the Coast Path and photograph my journey.
Valley of Rocks is an area of particular natural beauty on the northern coast of Devon. The valley lies within the Exmoor National Park, though it is only small it leaves a much larger impression. At first the Coast Path runs alongside the Valley of Rocks overlooking the sea before turning inland and passing through its centre.
It wasn’t only the scenery that was different to what I had been used to walking along the coast path, but also the architecture. Hidden away in the grounds of Lee Abbey and the Beacon Activity Centre was a building of unusual origin and design that caught my attention.
The grounds of the Abbey were closed to visitors but I was able to grab a shot of my favourite building framed by the entrance archway. There was such a juxtaposition in the style of the buildings it sat between that it raised the question of how and why it came about. I tried to find further information but I wasn’t able to.
It wasn’t long before I was walking out of the Valley of Rocks and was surrounded once again with scenery that was more familiar and typical of what I was expecting to see. Idyllic stone houses with smoking chimneys sat alone before ascending out of the valley.
Lyton and Lynmouth are two towns on the northern coast of Devon. Though the towns are separate they are governed by the same town council and often referred to as one. While Lyton sits at the top of a steep cliff the harbour town of Lynmouth sits below, where the East and West Lyn rivers meet.
It was due to Lynmouth’s position on the river that it saw devastating floods in August 1952. After the South West was hit by a storm water rushed down the valley from Exmoor, bringing with it fallen trees and other debris. Overnight more than one hundred buildings were destroyed and resulted in the death of thirty-four people.
The river is a huge part of the town and a constant reminder of what happened here. The defences have since been modernised and bridges widen. Though, while the river is low they may seem like overkill they are completely necessary in not seeing a repeat of what happen in 1952.
There is another reason Lynmouth is a well known town along the North Devon coast. Late one evening in 1899 a ship was in trouble off the coast of Porlock Weir and a lifeboat was needed. The conditions at Lynmouth (where the lifeboat was stationed) were too severe to launch the boat so the crew decided to drag the boat 15 miles over land to the sheltered harbour of Porlock Weir.
The journey was an incredible feat. The boat and its carriage was said to weigh 10 tons, taking 20 horses and a hundred men to make the journey. After ascending and descending two steep hills, navigating their way through exmoor and widening the path with picks they arrived exhausted early the next morning. Launching the boat immediately the crew rowed through the heavy seas and managed to save all eighteen crew members.
Even on a rainy day in October there were people coming and going as we took shelter in the newly restored lifeboat house now a memorial detailing the floods of 1952. It’s clear to see that these two stories have had an impact on the town. Not only marks in history but also physically on the town itself and its reputation.
The two towns are connected by a cliff railway. The railway was first introduced in 1890 to ease the transportation of goods up and down the steep cliff that separates Lynton and Lynmouth. It’s a water-powered funicular railway, meaning that it doesn’t need any power to operate. Instead the railway uses the weight of water and gravity.
Each carriage has a water tank as well as space for passengers, which is its main used today. As the carriage arrives at the lower station the tank is emptied, while the carriage at the top has its tank filled. The weight of the added water lowers the top carriage while raising the lower one.
We looked back down the hill at all the bridges crossing the steep incline of the tracks not regretting our decision for a moment to use the cliff railway to ascend. We caught up with the path and continued on into the Valley of Rocks.
Next week I hope to continue my photographic journey along the coast path and pick up where I left off last October. In the meantime I wanted to share one of the highlights from my last trip that came in one of the most unlikeliest of places.
I was walking into Ilfracombe along the coastal path with the recently acquired knowledge that it was home to a sculpture by the British artist Damien Hirst. As soon as the small seaside town came into view I began looking for the bronze statue, thinking that it would stand out against the traditional back drop of the town.
The sculpture was known as Verity and stands 20m tall at the entrance to the Ilfracombe harbour, looking over the Bristol Channel. As I walked into town I was given the chance to see the statue from many angles before getting right up close.
From a distance Verity was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and had less of an impact than I thought it would. That was a completely different story when you were stood underneath it. The controversial design and theme of the statue were something I had become familiar with in Hirst’s work.
It was the first time I had seen anything like it outside of an art exhibit and what left more of an impression was that it was in idyllic coastal town like Ilfracombe where you wouldn’t expect to see it.
Of course the local reaction to Verity was mixed but with a name like Hirst attached I’m sure it would have a positive effect on tourism. Verity is on a 20 year loan (starting in 2012 when it was erected) to the town of Ilfracombe but lets hope that she stays.
Any of these images are available as prints as well as others from my time on The Coast Path.
I have visited London and another piece from Hirst which is very familiar in theme The Human Body.
As a photographer attachments grow for certain places, you find yourself revisiting them time and time again. It’s almost an obsession to capture the perfect shot under the right circumstances. Every time you visit the moment is different and the image you capture tells another, slightly different, story.
During the last year, and especially over the last few months, I have been photographing my local area regularly. There are buildings and locations that I have become attached to, wanting to photograph them through different times of day and even seasons. An image that represents that specific moment in time is what I aim to achieve as a photographer.
There is a story about the most photographed barn in America. I first read about the idea in Don DeLillo’s White Noise, though a fictional barn he depicts a place that has become a tourist haven. Its reputation has grown from nothing and for no reason, except the fear that people are missing out. A pursuit to capture the best photograph of a picturesque location just because others are.
This idea has become even more evident with the increased popularity of social media and the fact that everyone has a camera in their pocket. Iconic locations have become must visit destinations. Your proof, a photo. Scroll through Instagram and you will find the latest hotspots, the stairs from the latest Joker movie or over run lavender fields. Each vying for the opportunity to become the next most photographed barn in America.
I have always photographed for myself, creating and finding my own locations that have value to me. I wanted to take the idea of the most photographed barn in America and apply it to a place that was important to me locally. Instead of it becoming a must photographed location for others I wanted to begin to create a continuously growing gallery of images, each a comparison to the last.