From Grey to Green: Nature and Cities are not Polar Opposites

3 min

The Pollinator Highway passes through nine distinctive panel housing areas and train depots, starting from an urban forest area and ending in a garden city, from a species-rich alvar to various industrial areas, all the while connecting Tallinn’s most distant parts to the heart of the city – the total length of the journey is almost 13 kilometres. Tallinn wishes to establish a vibrant and diverse linear park along the Pollinator Highway. Besides new ways of preserving and planning urban nature, several innovative solutions supporting the natural environment are implemented along the Pollinator Highway.

Promoting green mobility

Tallinn is one of Europe’s fastest growing capital cities in regard to the purchase of personal vehicles. This stems from the Soviet era, when owning a personal vehicle was a luxury only few could afford. Now, 30 years later, there is a dominant view that owning a personal vehicle is a part of individual freedom. Automobility indicates the shortcomings of urban planning, in which grey and green infrastructure are polar opposites. Urban planning is important and should be done in a way which maintains an enjoyable atmosphere and environment for both new and existing residents. This is achieved by focusing on green types of movement. The Pollinator Highway is one project that expands bicycle opportunities in Tallinn. Bike lanes are being planned and designed in places they do not currently exist within the framework of the Pollinator Highway project. A fast, new public transport option is being created between Südalinn and Tallinn’s largest coastal leisure area – Stroomi beach. This is a new tram corridor on the Pollinator Highway.

Reusing high voltage power masts

The Pollinator Highway mainly runs alongside a former roadbed and a high voltage corridor. The service masts from 1959 are set to disappear from the urban landscape because the lines will be moved away over the coming years. These masts are quite worthless, but the idea is that a few of the masts will become landmarks as an exciting formation of the Pollinator Highway. We wish to provide them with a new meaning and role.
Dismantling the steel frame modules and putting them back together in a new way can transform the masts into bearers of light, greenhouses, climbing towers or observation platforms covered in vines – the local residents suggested these ideas as part of the Pollinator Highway idea collection conducted in 2019. So-called ‘activity pockets’ will be designed near the masts. The masts will have integrated smart solutions which will be utilised in a number of ways. The masts’ new shape and concept is produced in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

Inclusion via augmented reality

The central issue of urban planning is how to involve local communities in important three-dimensional decision-making, and in turn how to clearly introduce those three-dimensional solutions to them. The Pollinator Highway project included an augmented reality art gallery. The garage walls that surround the Pollinator Highway had four thematic murals painted on them: ‘Sustainable mobility’, ‘New operating modes for garages’, ‘Activities in the public area’ and ‘Biodiversity’. When aiming your phone at the paintings, the augmented reality layer will activate, which will allow you to experience the planned urban space as an augmented reality solution in your surrounding physical space.


Author: Kaidi Põldoja, Tallinn Strategic Management Office, Head of Space Creation Competence Centre

Tallinn Strategic Management Office’s Ruumiloome Centre of Excellence is the leader of the Pollinator Highway project. Find more exciting information about the Pollinator Highway project on the website.

B.Green – Baltic Green Urban Infrastructure Planning is co-funded by Interreg Central Baltic Programme 01.02.2020 – 31.12.2022.