Fat Margaret

The Estonian Maritime Museum in a medieval cannon tower

Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Client: Estonian Maritime Museum
Open architecture competition: 2016, 1st prize
To be completed: 2019
Size: 1,600 m2

The Fat Margaret cannon tower is the final building in the defensive wall of Tallinn’s Old Town. The grand tower that stands in an important position was initially called Rosencrantz. The building received its new name only in the middle of the 19th century, when its function also changed – from a fortification to a prison – and an additional four-story building was built on the southern side. The tower relinquished its role as a prison during the March revolution of 1917, when the wooden sections of the building were set alight and the floors were dynamited in search of non-existent underground prison cells. The battery tower was renovated in 1938–1940 for use by the City Museum and in 1978–1980 for the Maritime Museum. Now, almost 40 years later, it is once again time to update and refresh the content and appearance of the museum.

The courtyard of the former prison, which will in the future house the medieval cog recently discovered at the bottom of the sea, is at the heart of the solution by KOKO architects. To ensure the necessary conditions for the conservation for the 700-year-old cog, a separate cog hall will be planned, the roof of which will create a new landscape for the courtyard. For the protection of the cog itself, the space under this landscape will not receive any damaging direct sunlight and to emphasise the exhibit a starry sky will be spread out above it.

Inside the cannon tower, Estonia’s lengthy maritime history unfolds before the visitor using historical exhibits and model ships, culminating in the observation platform on the roof of the tower. The platform has views of Tallinn Bay and Tallinn’s Old Town, which the tower once defended against threats arriving by sea. It is nice to end a long and thorough museum visit with a small snack before you continue discovering the rest of Tallinn’s Old Town.