EXPO 2000

The Estonian pavilion at the Hanover World Exposition

Location: Hanover, Germany
Client: Enterprise Estonia
Open architecture competition: 1999, 1st place
Completed: 2000
Size: 700 m2

EXPO 2000 in Hanover, Germany was the first time Estonia took part in the exposition with its own pavilion. The Republic of Estonia was eager to present the development of the country in the preceding few years and its preparations for joining the European Union, but also to exhibit aspects of Estonian national culture and highlight its greater political goals for the near future. A slogan was also chosen for the Estonian exhibition, “Land that breaks the waves”, which was intended to convey Estonia’s status as an ancient yet sustainable maritime country as well as the rapid developments it was going through.

As a result of the architecture competition, the ambitious task of representing Estonia was given to Andrus Kõresaar and Raivo Kotov, one of them a recent graduate of the Estonian Academy of Art, the other still in his last year at the academy. The crucial question posed by the winning design was: how to stand out among hundreds of other countries and communicate the sensibility of a young nation. The architects’ vision was to build the pavilion as high as the building regulations at EXPO would allow. Especially considering Estonia had been allocated a place next to two large well-known countries – Italy and the United States of America. The central idea was to create a flowing movement, inspired by the undulating sea and the wind whistling through the tree tops. The pavilion greeted the visitors with an ‘undulating’ forest of fir trees on its roof, symbolising the dynamic development of the young country. The movement of the visitors within the pavilion was organised as a journey, in order to avoid waiting and queuing. The idea proved to be successful – roughly every sixth visitor to the EXPO came to see the Estonian entry, in total 2.7 million people.

The structural elements of the pavilion were produced in Estonia and brought to Hanover by land. The steel structure was produced in Viljandi, the ‘carrots’ in Tallinn, the plastic fir trees in China, the fake limestone at Nukufilm. The construction started in January but had to face many restrictions and obstacles, all of which were fortunately overcome. The fir trees were put in place and started swaying before any birds could make their nests in the branches and the insulated glazing standard necessary for building the floor was reviewed in Germany just in time thanks to the additional testing conducted at Tallinn University of Technology. The pavilion was completed just a few days before EXPO was officially opened.

The forest of fir trees undulating on the roof was made up of 168 trees, organised in 24 rows – the movement was created by 100-metre long chain drives with electric motors. Each row of trees had a particular range of movement, so that the rows produced a visible wave-like movement. The 2.5 metre fir trees above the transparent ceiling were planted in orange cones, resembling carrots, and were also connected by cables to the limestone ‘clouds’ floating under the transparent floor. The movement created by these ‘clouds’ or ‘chunks of ice’ under blue glass evoked the impression of seeing the sea floor through the flickering waves. This visual association referred to Estonia as a maritime country: as one approaches the forest and swamp covered Estonia by boat, one cannot be sure, whether it is the boat or the land that is swaying.

The annual architecture prize of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia 2000
The cultural prize of the Estonian Government 2000