The Proto Invention Factory is located in the Noblessner Foundry, which was built in the port of Noblessner at the beginning of the 20th century. Up until recently, the port operated as a shipyard producing both underwater and surface ships.
After the industry left the area, new residential buildings popped up one after another, while the former factory buildings were repurposed. Initially, the foundry became a concert venue: the legendary choir and orchestra conductor Tõnu Kaljuste made use of the acoustics of the unique hall for many symphony concerts and recordings.
When restoring the building, it was important to preserve its old and battered, repeatedly patched-up look, so that its appearance would not become too clean. One of the key elements of the building is the Proto Invention Factory, a family entertainment centre aimed at popularising science.
Proto focuses on the major inventions of the 19th century that each of us still use today. In many cases, however, 19th-century inventors also thought up contraptions whose execution was limited by the laws of physics. One such invention is a bicycle that flies with the help of a propeller, so that the postman could deliver letters without having to face the village dogs.
Proto shines a light on these technically unachievable yet aspirational inventions, with the hope of encouraging children’s interest in invention and technology. Because Proto’s exhibits are created through the interplay of mechanics and virtual reality, they can offer the experience of riding a flying bicycle. Owing to the theme of the industrial revolution, the interior has been inspired by a steampunk aesthetic.
Other noteworthy exhibits and experiences include hot air ballooning, steam-powered cars, drilling to the Earth’s core, submarine discoveries and flying with wings. Each exhibit or activity point is like a work of art in itself, while the areas between them have been furnished with dummy installations. The space in its simplicity supports the story told by each exhibit. The side rooms house a cafe, a museum shop, administrative spaces, and spaces for organising conferences, birthdays and study sessions.
To support the industrial revolution design concept, we have preserved as much of the original look of the shipyard as possible. In addition to the construction elements, including the entire monolithic reinforced concrete frame and roof structures, we also preserved interior architectural elements, such as the historical wall decorations and hexagonal Mettlach tiles in the southwest room and metal rails in the central room of the shipbuilding workshop.