Open Air Exhibition Grounds of the Estonian Road Museum


Maarja Kask
Pelle-Sten Viiburg
Ralf Lõoke
Salto Architects
Karli Luik


2004, 2nd prize


Varbuse, Põlva County, Estonia


13 000m2


Phase 1 completed in 2010


Estonian Road Museum


Karli Luik, Pelle-Sten Viiburg, Nathan Willock


Landscape and Urban Planning, Public Projects


Competition, Educational

The open air exhibition grounds of the Estonian Road Museum are a mixture of many layers. Not only do they operate as an informative exhibit but also incorporate opportunities for leisure activities, while also experiencing artificial and natural landscapes in a compelling dialogue. The environment created is playful and effective. It functions not only as a museum piece but also as a piece of landscape art. The ambivalent character of the grounds makes them very intriguing. The concept of the exhibition grounds is based on a road – traversing your route you will encounter many different landscapes.

The road follows a long path shaped like number 8, where functions with different character and scale are placed in succession as if they were on a comic strip. The space necessary for the museum is scooped into the hilly South-Estonian landscape, leaving the rest of the environment as untouched as possible. Natural and artificial landscapes are clearly separated, yet treated as equals. The hollow, ranging from 10 cm to 4 m deep, forms more than 13 000 square metres of open air exhibition space which is barely visible from the remote surrounding areas.

The structure is built of reinforced concrete, with wood-paneled ‘nests’ (ticket and souvenir booth, lavatory etc.), authentic historical objects (roadside pub, gas station, bridge, segment of a railroad etc.) and graphic concrete, which softens the architecture of the infrastructure-like edifice. As a museum environment it continues the main exhibition of the museum through the idea of making the somewhat monotonous subject matter of roads and transport interesting through engaging presentation.