The international architectural competition brings the railway in Ülemiste to the forefront again 150 years later

RB Ülemiste terminal winning works

Zaha Hadid Architects ja osaühing Esplan

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects

Design: Zaha Hadid & Patrik Schumacher

Project Directors: Ludovico Lombardi, Michele Salvi

Project Team: Luciano Letteriello, Kate Revyakina, Serra Pakalin, Yuzhi Xu, Anthony Awanis, Hendrik Rupp, Davide del Giudice

Local Executive Architect: Lever Lõhmus, Ilmar Heinsoo (Esplan)

Engineers: Aleksei Saveljev, Rait Pukk, Alari Arro, Indrek Oden (Esplan)

  • The project aims to create a dynamic and vibrant transportation hub by integrating possible commercial facilities with public functions and architectural interventions.

  • Physical integration and visual interconnectivity between pedestrian, public transportation and various programs flux will bring a strong civic identity to the site and provide a recognizable spatial identity for the different parts of the site.

  • The project aims to design the Terminal as a new landmark for the city.

  • Great care will be given to the design of the concourse. Immediately accessible from the entrances of North and South squares, and bridging over the railway, the concourse should be a large gathering space from where all the different journeys will originate in a clear and ordered manner. The facilitation of obvious and easy access, as well as the smooth visual guidance will be the fundamental ethos of the design.

  • The architectural language will be geared towards the articulation of movement and will allow for the smooth integration of people flows and traffic lines that intersect within the stations. An open and dynamic quality of the architectural figure will be pursuit within the interior of the stations where the trajectories of the travelers are determining the geometry of the space and natural light.

  • The most challenging part of the structure is the terminal deck above the railways. The deck consist of inverted precast T-beams and is covered by the cast in-situ topping which together form a composite cross-section.

  • The planned railway terminal is designed to be user friendly, have a comfortable indoor climate and be sustainable and energy efficient.
Innopolis Insenerid OÜ
  • The design concept takes its cues from Estonia’s natural heritage. Inspired by the Estonian forest, the iconic terminal building is formed like a leaf. Clearly visible to guests arriving by air and train, this leaf motif signals the importance of the natural environment to Estonia. The leaf lies across the railway, bridging the north and the south, and providing a natural link from the airport to the city.

  • The key focus of the design has been inter-connectivity, to provide a fully integrated multi-modal transport hub. The terminal building derives its shape from the key pedestrian flows, linking the north and south. The solution provides an easy and direct flow for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

  • The terminal building is designed as a concourse solution, raised up above the railway, linking the north with the south and providing easy access from both sides.

  • The palette of materials is kept relatively simple, so that the architectural focus is centered on the building’s organic form. Roof cladding is in light aluminum, as are the closed partitions of the glass facade. All materials are chosen with a long life span and with a low emittance of unhealthy compounds. The materials are evaluated by how much they pollute in production and transport. This makes wood an excellent choice for the roof construction, all interior wall constructions, the ceiling and most wall surfaces.

  • This project focuses on a low transmittance thermal envelope that consists of two zones: one fully heated zone for work, dining and shopping, and another semi-heated zone for the waiting area. This reduces the need for heating in comparison to a fully heated building.

Executive Architect: Steen Enrico Andersen, Søren Mølbak

Team: Lina Bareikyte, Christian Henriksen, Tarek Sakkel, Ben Lucas, Nikoaj Slumstrup Petersen

DBA Progetti S.p.A. & HML Project Management OÜ

DBA Progetti

Chief Architect: Carlo Rivi

Project manager: Daniele De Bettin

Team: Alessia Ricciardone, Francesca Bottega, Alberto Ferrari, Sacha Busetti, Maria Giovanna Passaghe

Local Partner: Leo O’Neill, Janne-Eliise Kond

  • The railway station should be a strong, visible and recognizable landmark in the city. The city centre of Tallinn is characterized by a succession and an overlapping sequence of very sloping pitched roofs. This peculiar architectural element, the sequence of sloped roof slabs, has placed to Ülemiste as a shaping volume of the new terminal building, a sort of external unit of Tallinn’s historical city centre.

  • The need to realize a passage underneath the railway tracks and under Suur-Sõjamäe Street in order to connect the two parts of the city brought to the decision to place the terminal building under the railway tracks. In this way, the new urban space connecting both sides of the railway becomes also the lobby of the new terminal building.

  • Series of different public spaces generates a continuity sequence: the Terminal Square, the Terminal Lobby, the Lobby Stairway and the Ülemiste Promenade. This sequence becomes a unique space that connects the two parts of the city.

  • The new terminal buildings main access is placed along the new connecting public space under the railway. A secondary entrance is placed on the north side of the terminal.

  • All the canopy roof structure will be realized with galvanized steel. The stepped glass facade is realized with single laminated glasses and it lets in natural light.

  • Estonian climate requires passive design strategies focused both to optimise thermal envelope performances, in order to limit heating energy demand.

  • The project would adopt products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically and socially preferable life-cycle impacts to guarantee environmental health.

Ülemiste today

Ülemiste urban region is situated in Lasnamäe, the largest district of Tallinn. But it was the construction of the railway in 1870 and the Dvigatel plant – heart of the Estonian metal industry – completed 28 years later that brought real life and development to the urban region spread out over 3.4 square kilometres. The plant that started out producing passenger and freight wagons later also manufactured equipment for the space, atomic and chemistry industries of the Soviet Union.

Changing times and needs also arrived in Ülemiste area. Ülemiste Centre was opened in 2004, and the development of Ülemiste City in 2005 put a start to the changes on the current territory of the historic Dvigatel plant. Several old factory buildings were given new life, but the territory also allowed for establishing completely new buildings.

Ülemiste area is a developing living and working environment boasting growth potential, which is situated close to the international Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport. The area is also well-connected to the other districts of Tallinn (tram, city bus lines), Tallinn’s surrounding areas (train, Harju county lines) as well as other Estonian areas through public transport (long-distance buses, train), and car users also fairly well connected.

Three shopping centres with a total retail area of over 152,000 m2 are situated near the future Ülemiste Terminal, the newest of these, T1 developed by Pro Kapital, is situated next to the Ülemiste Joint Terminal; the area is also home to the Ülemiste Hotel (130 rooms in total), Ülemiste City campus (up to 30,000 jobs planned), and more than 4,500 parking spaces in total.

150 years later, the development of the area that got its start from the establishment of a railway is awaiting a new vision for development that is once again centred around the railway – Rail Baltica Ülemiste Joint Terminal.

era2 era1

Vision for Ülemiste

The developments of Ülemiste area have not, however, stopped. In addition to establishing Rail Baltica Joint Terminal, the developers of Ülemiste City, Technopolis Ülemiste and Mainor Ülemiste AS, as well as Tallinn Airport are still working on perspective real estate developments and vision plans in the area. T1 shopping centre developed by Pro Kapital in the immediate vicinity of Rail Baltica Joint Terminal has made a major contribution to Ülemiste’s current appearance.
The vision of Tallinn Airport for 2035 foresees the expansion of the passenger terminal in order to service up to 6 million passengers as well as the establishment of an airport campus – up to 150,000 square meters of commercial, service and accommodation space mainly for servicing air passengers are planned to be built in the airport campus.
The development of more than 30,000 square meters of Valukoja Quarter in Ülemiste City foresees a comprehensive solution for several different functions such as homes, offices and schools.
However, the ambition of the new Rail Baltica terminal to be established is not just resolving a place to stop for trains travelling on Rail Baltica, but it also aims to take into account the trains servicing the Moscow-St. Petersburg route and trains travelling to Narva and Tartu, local traffic and, in the distance future, stops for trains travelling in the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel. Additionally, the possibility of bringing a bus terminal for long-distance lines to Ülemiste has also been discussed. The existence of a railway was the catalyst for the development of Ülemiste urban region and will continue to be so in the vision for the new Ülemiste. This also includes the mitigation/elimination of the barrier effect of railway in the form of smooth passage of a terminal square underneath the railways.

DJI_02854 Original
DJI_0285 Modified

Design competition and expectations

The terminal building looks attractive and worthy of its status from all angles, and the building opens up towards both Peterburi Road and Suur-Sõjamäe Street. At the same time, the conceptual design proposes a building with maximum reliability and energy efficiency in its functions and constructional solutions, which takes account of the use of sustainable technologies. The choice of construction and finishing materials and the construction technology are economical, environmentally friendly and easy to maintain.

We expect that:

  • The importance of Ülemiste Joint Terminal as the starting and terminating station of Rail Baltica is architecturally recognisable in comparison with other stops on the Rail Baltica route. The new construction works are architecturally advanced and suitable for the given location with regard to urban development.
  • The architectural competition helps us to find an architectural solution that is the most attractive in terms of the urban space, pedestrian-friendliest and most suitable for the function of use.
  • The solution is built at optimum cost and is convenient, functional and energy efficient for the end user, and has low operating costs.
  • The buildings to be constructed are compatible with the surrounding environment, and the elements supporting the buildings (bicycle storage and other small facilities) take account of the principles of designing a complete set. All facades of the building take account of the surrounding urban space; technical facilities etc. are included in the volume of the building and/or designed to form an organic whole with the building. The architecture of the buildings is contemporary, advanced and improves the spatial quality of the area.
  • The terminal building looks attractive and worthy of its status from all angles, and the building opens up towards both Peterburi tee and Suur-Sõjamäe Street. At the same time, the conceptual design proposes a building with maximum reliability and energy efficiency in its functions and constructional solutions, which takes account of the use of sustainable technologies. The choice of construction and finishing materials and the construction technology are economical, environmentally friendly and easy to maintain.
  • Buildings are made of valuable and durable materials, and finishing materials do not interfere with the visibility of the drivers of railway rolling stock nor the legibility of signals.


    The competition identifies the three best designs for commencing negotiations to determine the contractor.

    The total prize fund for the design competition is 77,000 euros.

    I place/winner – 28,000 euros
    II place/winner – 21,000 euros
    III place/winner – 14,000 euros

    2 incentive prizes of 7,000 euros.

    Official competition terms and conditions and guidelines are available HERE



  • Location Tallinn, Ülemiste urban region 3D map
  • Size of the competition area ca 10 ha
  • Design volume of the terminal building 3,590 m²
  • Area of the terminal lounge 1,300 m²
  • Width of platforms – 8 to 9.5 metersThe competition area is situated in the city of Tallinn, Lasnamäe district, Ülemiste, in the area between Peterburi tee and Suur-Sõjamäe Street, and includes the following land units: Peterburi tee 2 (partially), Peterburi tee 4a, Peterburi tee 4d, Ülemiste tee 5 (partially), Ülemiste tee, Ülemiste tee T2, unreformed state land on the site, Ülemiste railway station, Suur-Sõjamäe Street 8a, Suur-Sõjamäe Street T1, Suur-Sõjamäe Street T11, Suur-Sõjamäe Street T2, and Peterburi tee T10. The design competition solution must take into account the following already established objects, which cannot be changed or supplemented in the course of the design competition:
  • tramway;
  • the street between T1 shopping centre and the tramway;
  • the street between Ülemiste tee railway and T1 shopping centre.

Important competition dates

1 May 2019 

Announcement of the architectural design competition for Rail Baltica Ülemiste Joint Terminal

3rd of September 2019


Submission of design concepts for the competition

October 2019

Choosing the winners of the design competition

November 2019

Commencement of negotiations


Head of Jury Riia Sillave

CEO Rail Baltic Estonia

Mattias Agabus


Janis Dripe


Jesper Gottlieb


Thomas Grave-Larsen


Andrus Kaldalu

Member of Supervisory Board Mainor Ülemiste

Endrik Mänd


Andrus Noor

Infrastructure Development Manager AS Eesti Raudtee

Allan Remmelkoor

Board Member AS Pro Kapital Eesti

Rail Baltica

Ülemiste Joint Terminal is the starting point for the first fast railway connection in the Baltic States – Rail Baltica!

Rail Baltica is an international fast, safe and environmentally friendly railway connection that connects Estonia to Central and Western Europe and the neighbouring countries. The electrified Rail Baltica that runs 870 kilometres (of which 213 km in Estonia) is one of the greatest investments ever made both in improving the travel possibilities of the Estonian people and promoting entrepreneurship, tourism and trade.

The route provides passengers with speeds of up to 240 km/h (design speed 249 km/h) and creates a whole new opportunity for conveniently and quickly travelling to Latvia and Lithuania and from there to Central Europe.

Freight trains are estimated to have speeds of up to 120 km/h, and movement of goods from the road to the railway contributes to Estonia’s environmental goals.

Rail Baltica (Tallinn-Pärnu-Riga-Kaunas-Warsaw) is part of the main network of the North Sea-Baltic transport corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and is among the priority projects for financing EU cross-border and intra-EU connections.


The RB Ülemiste Joint Terminal Architectural Design Contest, which ended on September 3, received 5 entries, of which the competition procurement committee qualified four design solutions according to the terms of the competition. Qualified entries will be judged by a 9-member international jury which will select three winning entries to be negotiated with the authors. The winning entries will be announced in November 2019. The design agreement for RB Ülemiste Common Terminal is expected to be reached in December 2019.

Ülemiste visioon 2