Fat Margaret was built around the 1520s on the site of a former rose garden and is today part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Old Town of Tallinn. In the 19th century, the tower became a prison and auxiliary buildings were added. Since 1981, the complex has housed the Estonian Maritime Museum.
Recently, the building was fully reconstructed for the new permanent exhibition, and a new building was erected in the courtyard for the display of a mediaeval shipwreck.
The walls of the tower are six metres thick, leaving little room for displaying exhibits. The previous movement plan, which relied on a single staircase, created repetitions and dead ends for the visitor.
Therefore, it seemed best to add a cylindrical glass elevator in the centre of the tower and dig out another floor under the medieval wall to connect the tower with the courtyard from below. The lowering of the courtyard by one floor level helped to create the necessary height to accommodate the shipwreck so that it would not look pressed against the ceiling.
The space around the cog follows the irregular forms of the courtyard and the walls while creating a faceted dome and an expanse above the ship.
At the edges of the space, there are UV-resistant light tunnels that present a view of the outer walls at the top of their height. Inside the building, the faceted shape of the ceiling makes it possible to project a starry sky and a historical navigation map above the ship. During the construction of the space for the ship, a part of a medieval street was discovered and has also been preserved.
The wreck of a 15th-century cog-type ship was discovered not long ago during the excavations of Tallinn’s seaside development on the former seabed, where the ship’s hull had been preserved. The exceptional hanging solution needed to display the shipwreck was created in cooperation with MEC Marine Engineering.
The hull and cavities of the ship were scanned to create a mould and place a metal skeleton as inconspicuously as possible between the planking layers, which would help suspend the wreck so weightlessly that it would appear to be floating.
On the roof of Fat Margaret, there is an open-air cafe with minimalist design offering unparalleled views of the Old Town.
Photos: Hendrik Osula, Andrus Kõresaar, Tõnu Tunnel