Museum of Occupations

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Kavakava Architects

Project team

Indrek Peil, Siiri Vallner, Tomomi Hayashi, Toomas Kuslap


ESP, Teinos

Competition & awards

Open, 2000–2001, 1st Prize


Toompea 8, 10142 Tallinn


1,670 m2


Completed, 2003


Kistler–Ritso Estonian Foundation


Kaido Haagen


Culture, Awarded, Landscape and Urban Planning, Public


Public, Tallinn city centre, Cultural, Landscape & urbanism, Awarded, Public space, Urban planning, Competition, Tallinn

The Museum of Occupations was the first custom-built museum in newly independent Estonia, the design being chosen at a competition with 50 submissions. The aim of the institution was to provide adequate information on occupations of the recent past, build a memorial to the deceased and enable organizing of small-scale seminars.

The Museum of Occupations is located in the green fortification belt encircling the Old Town. The building is pretty small-scale, structured as an uninterrupted movement through different interior spaces. The space is arranged as a one open arena, where things can move into each other and change their meanings – however, the room perceived as one is divided into parts more or less specific character / emotional quality. The museum, the city and the park are integrated into a continuous yet changing experience, suitable for the institution’s goal of being contemporary and constantly in flux.

A small front yard (memorial) with birches serves as an entrance. The yard works as a pause between the city and the museum. The birches create light effects, bringing into the museum the changing rhythm of days, leaf shadows projecting onto the glass walls. Heavy symbols have been consciously avoided. Architects set out to design a building that would be ideologically more neutral than would be expected in a similar case. The fragile architecture is in marked contrast with the way the recent past had been hitherto presented.

Regardless of the lack of partition walls, the whole interior may not be grasped in the first view. Different functions meet and intermingle, there are no sharp distinctions. The ground floor houses the main exposition and temporary exhibitions; toilets, cloakroom and storages may be found in the basement. The library and working spaces are located in the open mezzanine.