Reconstructing the premises of the Estonian History Museum at a historic summer manor by Tallinn Bay

Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Estonian History Museum
Open architectural competition: 2014, 1st prize
Completed: 2018
Size: 4,000 m2

Maarjamäe Palace is the best-preserved intact summer manor complex in Tallinn. It was built in 1874 by order of count Anatoli Orlov-Davydov of St. Petersburg on the territory of a former factory. The stairs leading to the palace date back to the same year, and before Pirita Road was built, these led directly to the sea.

The task of the architectural competition was to logistically plan the internal rooms and outdoor spaces of the Estonian History Museum located in the existing building while integrating the historic building with the function of the museum and the parks surrounding the building.

The key idea for the design by KOKO architects is “layers” – marking the historic layers, the multi-layered exhibitions and the visible geological strata at Maarjamäe. Lines that vaguely resemble the museum's logo divide the landscape around the palace into sections that mark the various stages of Estonian history including “the good old Swedish times”, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and so on.

The relationship between the design and the historic building is environmentally sensitive. The goal is to maintain a homogeneous spatial impression by also making the visitors and employees feel as comfortable as possible while at the museum.

Upon entering the building the visitors first find themselves in the foyer where a logical separation between the restaurant and the museum takes place. The new stairs and lift lead to the permanent exhibition on the first floor. The foyer, the new staircase leading up to the first floor and the summer hall form a prominent space like a kind of enfilade. The museum's ticket and souvenir counter is also situated in the foyer, which has been designed using coloured layers where every 10cm-segment marks 100 years in Estonian history dating back to the year 1000. The coloured segments mark various foreign powers in Estonia. Important dates can also be added there.

The summer hall can be used as part of the restaurant as well as the museum, and the conference hall can be used for temporary exhibitions. Toilets and the cloakroom have been arranged in such a way that makes them comfortable to use for museum, restaurant and conference centre visitors. Food from the kitchen, which is located in the basement, is transported to the restaurant in a lift and the route between the lift and restaurant has been designed to be as inconspicuous as possible.