Building

Noblessner – Brimming with History, Imprinted by Greats

As its name in Estonian indicates, Kai Art Center is located on a dock, in a repurposed industrial building in North Tallinn’s Noblessner Quarter, known for its fascinating history and architecture. The ensemble of limestone and concrete buildings is full of historical associations: it was a secret submarine facility from tsarist Russian times, it is closely connected with the nephew of Alfred Nobel, and it’s now a home to contemporary culture.

 

Kai Art Center is located directly on the water, in the Noblessner factory’s vessel systems department. The building, which is a national heritage site, was restored and renovated according to the vision of KAOS Architects, and will become an international art center in 2019. In the near future, contemporary art, virtual reality, restaurants, offices, apartments, and the port itself will all be integrated into a modern seaside urban space.

 

The history of Noblessner dates back to 1912, when two St. Petersburg businessmen – Europe’s biggest oil industrialist, Emanuel Nobel (Alfred Nobel’s nephew), and Arthur Lessner, owner of the G. A. Lessner machinery factory, built a submarine production center here, the most important one in tsarist Russia. The name Noblessner is derived from the founders’ last names. From 1913 to 1917, a total of 12 then state-of-the-art submarines were built here. During Soviet times, Noblessner was home to the Soviet Ministry of Defense shipyard. When Estonia gained independence, submarine production at Noblessner came to a halt, but ships were still built and repaired here all the way up to 2018.

 

The original developer of the quarter, Emanuel Nobel, was a colourful personality and as talented as his world-famous uncle Alfred. Besides managing the family-owned oil company, Branobel, Emanuel founded the world’s first diesel engine plant, which also produced engines for Noblessner’s submarines.

 

Nobel, who owned an outstanding Fabergé collection, loved art and sumptuous dinners. In 1888, Tsar Alexander III offered him Russian citizenship; Emanuel accepted. In fact, Emanuel is also to be thanked for the fact that Nobel Prizes have their current stature. After Alfred Nobel’s death, his heirs challenged his will, which left most of his estate to the Nobel Foundation for establishing the prizes. The disputes and negotiations lasted two years, but ultimately Emanuel managed to conclude an agreement that honored Alfred’s original intent.

 

Art framed by industrial architecture

The unique milieu of Kai Art Center’s surroundings stems from the imposing architecture of 12 historical industrial buildings that use the dramatic century-long story of the Estonian economy and statehood. The center is located in one of these buildings, the former vessel systems department. The building has a rectangular floor plan and was a workshop for coppersmiths and joiners in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The building’s defining element is its rounded roof, with a small triangular roof lantern.

 

All of the Noblessner buildings were built using methods that were innovative for their time, using monolithic reinforced-concrete frames. The limestone architecture typical for northern Estonia, with high, massive walls, offers space for the imagination to soar. Some of the buildings retain a rougher-hewn industrial look and still contain old machinery, helping to keep the historical link alive.

 

The complex drew outstanding individuals to the periphery of Europe in the early 20th century. One such example was the Danish engineering office, whose masterful design was vital to the adjacent Seaplane Harbour hangars, with their extraordinary concrete-shell structure. The revival of the architectural ensemble as a contemporary residential, commercial, and cultural environment is the handiwork of Estonia’s own internationally-acclaimed architecture practices.

Room rental

The gallery – open for hosting private events

The main gallery space is the largest room in the building with 6 meter high ceilings. Boasting a unique atmosphere and intended mainly for hosting exhibitions and art events, the gallery is also open to hosting private functions, such as:

  • Exclusive client events
  • Presentations or release events
  • Receptions
  • Gala dinners
  • Larger private celebrations

 

The 420m2 gallery can accommodate:

  • 370 people for standing receptions
  • Up to 160 people for banquets with tables and chairs

 

The gallery is located on the second floor and is also wheelchair-accessible. The entrance is through the main door on the seaward side.

 

Auditorium and cinema hall

With modern cinema equipment and seating, the auditorium and cinema offers flexible space arrangements for your event. Some possible ideas are:

  • Trainings and seminars
  • Book releases and product demonstrations
  • Film screenings

The auditorium and cinema hall has seats for up to 100 people, and it can be rented with or without the gallery. The chairs can be removed and we also offer cushions as one seating alternative for smaller groups. The minimum rental period is three hours.

 

Meeting rooms for new ideas

Kai Art Center has two meeting rooms that are named after two submarines once built at Noblessner. We rent the rooms out for private seminars, meetings, and brainstorming sessions.

  • KIISK – for up to eight people
  • SÄINAS – for 16 people

The meeting rooms are equipped with high-quality presentation equipment and can be rented for periods starting from three hours. Furniture can be arranged to suit your preferences.

Neighbors