Renovation of a historic church in the centre of Tartu

Location: Tartu, Estonia
Client: Tartu Maarja Kiriku SA
Open architecture competition: 2011, 1st prize
To be completed: 2021
Size: 2,000 m2

The Neo-classicist Maarja church in Tartu was built in 1842. In 1869, the rehearsals for the first Estonian Song Festival were conducted here. The church burnt down during the Second World War, and in 1941, now without a tower and in ruin, it was reconstructed as the gymnasium for the Estonian Academy of Agriculture. The building was only given back to the congregation in 2009, and will soon be re-consecrated as a church. The exterior, including the tower, will be restored as they once were; the interior, however, will be designed as a contemporary church hall and centre for the congregation.

The hall is elevated so that its floor is at the same height as the windowsills. The elevated surface is open on the side-isles and so the floor seems like a floating platform. This design allows the old walls to be restored in their original form. Beneath this floor there is a separate level with spaces designated for the congregation – a side hall, library, kitchen, playroom for children, offices, toilets and so on. Almost all of the rooms have internal windows, so the light from the windows of the main hall can reach those spaces as well.

The ceiling of the main hall will be open and feature the structure of the roof with contemporary chandeliers. A minimalist altar will be placed on a podium and illuminated by a large skylight. The rear wall of the altar will consist of glass partition walls with a cross cut into them.