Revitalizing Modernist Districts: Neighbourhood Level Mass-Renovation with SOFTacademy Project


  • Murel Truu
  • Lauri Lihtmaa
  • Mariliis Niinemägi



neighbourhood renovation, apartment buildings, renovation wave, New European Bauhaus, prefabricated serial renovation, energy efficiency, refurbishment, dwellings


This article discusses the neighbourhood-level renovation potential in Tallinn's modernist privately owned apartment blocks, with the aim of addressing the global need for deep renovation. The analysis considers international directives, national policies and municipal objectives, highlighting the focus of current renovation initiatives on apartment buildings. The discourse drives the ongoing conflict between energy-focused renovation and the preservation of spatial quality, relevant especially for the countries that favour partial renovation over the complete transformation of a building. It analyses the emerging impact of the New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative, emphasizing the need to balance technical energy investments with cultural and aesthetic considerations in wider neighbourhoods.

Shifting the focus to Tallinn, the article deals with the challenges of modernist mass production housing districts, recognizing their technical structure, current decay and socio-economic limitations. The European Renovation Wave strategy and upcoming energy efficiency requirements are seen as catalysts for neighbourhood revitalization, prompting the exploration of innovative models to transform these neighbourhoods into liveable and functional spaces. The discussion unfolds within the NEB compass, emphasizing the core values of beauty, sustainability, and cohesion.

Practical considerations for the transformation of Tallinn districts are discussed, including spatial regulations, the complexity of ownership and the different perspectives of apartment owners. As a solution, the SOFTacademy approach is introduced, proposing a collaborative model establishing both the hardware and software elements for NEB driven renovation of neighbourhoods. In terms of hardware solution, prefabrication and modularity is used both for renovating the buildings as well as reinventing the courtyards around them. While the physical rejuvenation of the neighbourhoods is the key to NEB transformation, the shift depends as much from the software solutions.

The results outline a process for initiating neighbourhood-level renovations, emphasizing the importance of consulting with owners, creating blueprints, and entering into cooperative agreements.