Colourful history inside an intriguing space

Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Estonian History Museum
Commission: 2008
Completed: 2011
Size: 1,500 m2

The Great Guild Hall with its high gable roof is a building with a remarkable history located in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town near the Town Hall Square. For centuries the Great Guild joined Tallinn’s merchants and the building served as their meeting place. For the last 50 years, the rooms have been used by the Estonian History Museum. It was the museum’s ambitious plan to establish a comprehensive and modern exhibition about the history of Estonia that triggered the thorough process of renovating the 600-year-old building. The interior design solutions and design of the new exhibition were KOKO’s contribution.

The museum wanted to open the entire Great Guild Hall to the public. In addition to the ground floor along with the main hall, the exhibition was to extend to the cellar, which thus far had been closed to visitors. Thorough archaeological and historical research into the construction complicated the design and construction process but these were also inspiring as they provided additional information about the history of the building and helped enrich the new exhibition at the museum.

The exhibition rooms at the Great Guild Hall are located on the ground floor, the cellar and the excise chamber. The latter introduces the history of the currencies that were used or found in Estonia and the main hall exhibits the permanent exhibition “Spirit of Survival – 11,000 Years of Estonian History”. Several unique solutions have been used for the new interior design and fixtures. Special attention has been paid to the furniture, lighting and information graphics. Most of the installations are modern on purpose but their dignified design refers to the historical rooms of the Great Guild Hall.

Traditional and chronological storytelling was discarded in creating the new permanent exhibition as well as other exhibitions. The items, texts, animations and interactive tools at the exhibition focused on selected themes and introduced Estonia, the complex history of its people and their connections with neighbouring countries and peoples.

Text: Carl-Dag Lige