The (successful) challenge of DGT for the new Estonian National Museum

Place: Tartu, Country: Estonia
Client: Estonian Ministry of culture.
Design Architects: DGT Architects - Lina Ghotmeh, Dan Dorell, Tsuyoshi Tane
Text by Federica Lusiardi
Building photos Takuji Shimmura
Aerial photo © Arp Karm
All images courtesy of DGT Architects


The (successful) challenge of DGT for the new Estonian National Museum

On September 29, 2016, the Estonian National Museum officially opened to the public in the city of Tartu.
In 2005, an international competition to design the new museum was organized by the Estonian State; at the end of the evaluating process, the proposal by Paris-based architectural practice DGT Dorell.Ghotme.Tane / Architects was selected as winner among 108 entries.

The competition proposal by DGT was audacious – a courage with frequently characterize winning design in many architectural competitions – especially for what concerns the place imagined by the architects for the new structure. Instead of designing the museum in the site proposed by the competition brief, Dorell. Ghotmeh.Tane located their building in a different place, that of a former Soviet military base; therefore, the museum was intended as a brand new entity symbolically built over the “ruins” of history.

It is worth mentioning that the Republic of Estonia separated from the Soviet Union and became independent in 1991, and is member of the European Union only since 2004. The aspiration of the Estonian Ministry of Culture to create a venue aimed to testify a reawakened pride in national identity and a unique cultural history, was therefore part of a larger program of social and economic reforms.



Estonian National Museum, site plan


East elevation


Longitudinal section (the main entrance of the museum is on the left)


The project by DGT-Dorell-Ghotmeh.Tane originates from the dramatically evocative power of the place. The abandoned airfield in which the museum was built is inevitably connected to the history of the Country. Therefore, the 1150-foot long rectangular shape of the building is the ideal continuation of the old runway and the museum’s slightly sloped roof –  a metaphoric launching pad from which to fly to the infinite sky – is actually a rooftop terrace for open-air activities and events, which overlooks the surrounding landscape.



Underground floor plan


Ground floor plan


Schemes of the different use of the rooftop terrace and the adjacent former runway for (from left to right) folk festivals and live performances, art events, ski and ice skating



Enclosed by double-height transparent walls made of textured glass panels, the building volume extends and cut into the ground, like an ice shard in the snowy landscape, while it entrance side rise up to welcome the visitors and to invite them to enter and plunge into the museum’s womb.




One of the patterns used for the glass texture

Encompassing a gross floor area of 360,000 square feet, the museum houses a 140-piece ethnographic collection focused on Estonian history and culture and its Finno-Ugric roots.
Along with permanent exhibition galleries, the museum includes temporary exhibition spaces, a multifunctional black box, a learning center, a library, workshop spaces, archives, storage rooms for the museum holdings, and an array of service spaces for the public.





Interior views of the museum

All images courtesy of DGT Architects

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