Maarjamäe Palace has a colourful past. Its grounds have been the site of a summer manor, a sugar factory and a starch and spirits factory. The building located there today was originally built as a summer manor, but over the years, it has housed the restaurant-hotel Riviera-Palais, a flight school, apartments with shared kitchens, a shop, and eventually a museum. The building has also been rebuilt several times. The latest reconstruction and modernisation as a contemporary historical centre was completed in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Estonian state.
During the reconstruction, a tunnel was built under the main hall, known as the Summer Hall, that allowed for more convenient use of the building. An elevator was added to facilitate movement between different levels, and a restaurant was set up in the oldest part of the castle facing Pirita Road. The new solution allows visitors to go up to the roof of the tower through a glass drum and enjoy the wonderful view from the outdoor terrace.
The key idea for the design was “layers”, marking the historical stratification of the site– the different periods, the multi-layered exhibitions as well as the exposed geological strata at Maarjamäe. The existing spatial layers were preserved, and the historical part of the old palace restored. The new paths and the entrance were given a finish that clearly sets them apart from the preserved historical parts of the building.
The oldest part of the palace, which houses the restaurant, the Summer Hall or Okas Hall (named after the wall piece painted by Evald Okas) and the main entrance, has remained true to the summer manor atmosphere. The wide wood flooring and ornamented mirrored ceilings were restored. The lower part of the restaurant’s walls were covered with new wainscoting, while the upper part of the walls were decorated with stucco in a design inspired by the surviving photographs of the summer manor. Works by the well-known Estonian printmaker Peeter Allik hang on the walls.
In the Okas Hall, the piece painted by Evald Okas was surrounded with a glass wall coated with a electric folio. This layer makes it possible to turn the painting into a white surface that acts as a screen to display an animation about Maarjamäe Palace. The wooden panelling and stucco decoration on the walls and ceiling of the Summer Hall were painted white to facilitate the display of the painting and to create an atmosphere of brightness that does justice to its name as the Summer Hall.
The reception area and restrooms have a minimalist design, emphasising the newness of this part of the building, which forms a layer of its own, while ceramic tiles with historical references on the floor and walls tie in with the rest of the building.
Cornices with straight lines have been fixed to the smooth ceiling of the reception area, the laconic style of which speaks of the modern era, while acting as a bridge to the historical spaces. The floor of the foyer was laid with limestone tiles etched with a pattern reminiscent of the Persian carpets that once covered this hallway. The walls of the new toilet block were covered with MDF boards with a pattern which marks the different layers of Estonian history.
The balustrade of the new staircase and the furniture in the waiting area are also designed to have a two-dimensional appearance. The idea is to convey the new layer as if it were sketched on paper.
In addition to these spaces, the building houses renovated exhibition spaces, a children’s hall with a new mezzanine, a conference hall, offices and other auxiliary and technical spaces.