Estonian Museum Wins Prestigious Award
Rahvusvahelised uudised 29 May 2016  EWR
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The transformation of a Soviet-era airbase into an ethnographic museum has been controversial, but just won international recognition for its innovative and environmentally friendly design. 27 May 2016
Paris-based architecture firm Dorell-Ghotmeh-Tane Architectes (DGT) received the eminent AFEX Grand Prix on 26 May for its design of the Estonian National Museum, according to The Baltic Course.

The prize rewards buildings erected outside France, by French architects, Batiactu writes, and is awarded every two years by AFEX, a non-profit architecture organization promoting French architecture; the French Ministry of Culture; the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, an architecture museum located in Paris.

This year's winner won praise for its environmentally friendly design, which includes a “passive energy building, which uses the least energy possible. The archives located in the building were conceived using rigorous constraints of High Environmental Quality (a French certification for buildings meeting certain quality criteria),” according to Batiactu.

The construction of the building has courted controversy ever since the French architecture firm won the contract in 2005. Instead of erecting the building from ground up on the proposed site, DGT chose to transform a former Soviet airbase, believing “that the new Museum should play an essential role in the regeneration of the area (…) by dealing with this heavily charged and spatially unique place. The National Museum becomes a continuation of the airfield – its roof lifting and expanding towards ‘infinite space’ – inviting the visitor to enter into the landscape and into the heart of the museum.”

The museum is scheduled to open on 1 October 2016, The Baltic Course writes.

The museum is meant as "a place of gathering and interaction, bringing people together to celebrate a rich, if sometimes painful, history," according to its architects.

First proposed in 2003, the project ran into a roadblock in 2011 when the European Commission refused to foot half of the total budget of 63 million euros ($70.4 million), saying the planned building was too large and expensive for an ethnographic collection. After potential developers said the building’s budget was vastly underestimated, the commission at one point advised scrapping the project altogether.

• Its location in Raadi, a neighborhood of Tartu, has fueled criticism for being too remote a site to attract enough visitors to generate revenue.

• The original National Museum, also located in Raadi, was destroyed during World War II. During the Soviet era, the area was home to an airfield that caused Tartu to become a “closed city,” forbidden to outsiders.

• The museum will host, among other things, an enormous Estonian flag, currently being knitted by Finland-based Estonian construction worker Valtrik Pihl, in celebration of the Baltic nation's centenary in 2018. The flag is supposed to have a surface of 160 square meters (1,722-square feet), an endeavor that will take 3,000 hours and use 139 kilometers (86 miles) of yarn.

(Compiled by Ioana Caloianu)
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Jan 31 2018 - Toronto Eesti Maja
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