A symbol of innovation and regeneration
When Estonia obtained its second independence in 1991, the country was left littered with remnants of its occupied past. Where once stood Raadi Manor on the outskirts of Tartu were now the remains of the largest Soviet military air base in the Baltics.
In 2005, the Estonian government launched an international competition to design a new museum to celebrate the country's long history. After ridding the abandoned airfield of its toxic waste, polluting oil and ammunition, the construction began. The winning design signaled a pivotal point in time: a strictly guarded former military site was returned to the Estonian people and opened up to the public. And the design is a bold one. As you approach the elongated, upward sloping structure, it appears to rise from the runway like the upward path of a soaring plane.
The museum opened in 2016 to much local and international praise. The design was awarded the Afex Grand Prix, which recognizes outstanding buildings by French architects abroad and was voted the Estonian Concrete Building of the Year.
Sustainability lies at the heart of this low-energy building. The museum's valuable archives are kept at a constant year-round temperature and humidity thanks to passive design technologies that use insulating layers of air in buffer corridors.