Pärnu Environmental Education Centre

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Salto Architects

Project team

Maarja Kask, Karli Luik, Ralf Lõoke, Helin Kukk, Andro Mänd, Helen Rebane, Margus Tamm

Competition & awards

Open, 2006, 3rd Prize (shared)


A. H. Tammsaare puiestee 57, 80016 Pärnu


1,900 m2 (building) and 11,500 m2 (garden)


Completed 2013


Salto Architects


Culture, Science & Education, Sustainability, Landscape and Urban Planning, Public


Public, Cultural, Landscape & urbanism, Wood, Sustainable, Visitor center, Science center, Park, Public space, Landscape design, Garden, Educational, Pärnu

The central idea of the Pärnu Environmental Education Centre, chosen by an architectural competition in 2006, was to create a green oasis in the diverse urban environment. The three-storied roundish building covered by roll-down houses classrooms, a library, an archive, a platform for tropical plants, a planetarium and a café. Instead of designing a striking facade the architects have set out to develop a functional yet aesthetical environment.

Both the building and the surrounding garden form an intertwined whole which is based on the maximum openness and fluidity of space. The building becomes an organic part of the landscape and also a green oasis in the otherwise grayish concrete area. Architects have created a space that offers unexpected architectural experiences similar to the ones in nature. For instance, there is a hovering planetarium above the atrium.

For the environmental education center, it was essential to find an energy efficient architectural solution. Thus, the building’s orientation, open inner structure and partially underground location all support a sustainable indoor climate. During the building phase also the carbon footprint of the materials used was taken into consideration.

Greenery is added to the urban space by the parkland and the greenhouse opening to the south, which also helps to stabilize the internal climate of the building. The garden which is open to the public in the daytime offers an unexpected and variegated spatial experience.