51% of Estonia is covered with forests. It’s everyman’s right to camp, completely free of charge, in the forests or next to the hiking trails run by the Estonian Forest Management Centre. The hiking trails and camp sites are valued for their wonderful nature – a potential great match for contemporary architectural thought!
B210 has conciously taken on tutoring at the Estonian Academy of Arts as a way of pushing for a certain understanding of architecture within the professional community as well as the society at large.
The design studio brief we developed for the first year interior design students of the Estonian Academy of Arts was inspired by the idea of discussing human scale spatial interventions in vast natural landscapes. What is a forest and being in a forest? How to survive in the forest and take advantage of the existing? What are the restrictions when constructing something for a location that is flooded several times a year, where the temperature can change from +25C to -25C, easily, and which is a home to a number of protected species? How to design together with the nature? How to design in wood?
The whole process gives students a unique experience of developing idea into design and dealing with construction, project management, working out problems and finding suitable solutions. The design process is divided into four parts. We start with lectures that are combined with abstract exercises to express different topics for example minimal space, relationship to natural phenomenas and body in space. The second part is individual design process starting with an abstract notion or feeling about the site and functions and developing the idea gradually more and more into precise building. After weeks of training in investigation and concept creation and a thorough site visit, the students are finally
allowed to start developing their idea of the project. Many manage to let go of the archetypal hut concept and present spatial ideas that were more or less intertwined and organically combined with the surrounding environment of the site, and a few were built upon the effect of contrast. The third part is groupwork to prepare the selected idea for construction. The students also get the chance to peek into the everyday life of an architect while working in our studio with qualified architects to producing technical drawings and documentation for the building permission. The final part is building the chosen object in the school wood workshop and on site.
The whole process provided us as tutors with many opportunities for discussing the widest philosophical questions and the tiniest practical details, and not necessarily in the linear order of abstract to specific, beautifully illustrating the scope of the discipline for the students and the many modes of thinking it requires. The built objects educate the client (that there is an alternative for excessively built kitsch campsites) and wider audience about the necessity of clever spatial solutions.
2015 - The Forest Megaphones RUUP are a surprise to the hiker – a shift in scale, an unexpected object on an absurd scale somewhere in the bushes near the Latvian border. It’s an extremely symbolic reference to the sense of hearing. The reference itself might be enough to inspire people to listen to the cosmos of the forest. When you pay attention, you might notice the way that sounds are amplified at the intersection of the three megaphones. You can sit down comfortably in each of the megaphones and they frame the sky one one side, and moss and blueberries on the other. The installation shakes up the perspective.
2016 - VARI (a play of words: it means both ‘shadow’ and ‘cover’ in Estonian) provides the hiker with a play of light and shadow that is created by the double layer exterior and a fireplace to warm themselves on top of the shade. It is also a place to dry your feet in the springtime when Emajõgi River floods the whole area. As the fireplace is located on the second floor of the hut, under clear sky, it might work at nighttime as a lighthouse for the boats on the river.
2017 - A birdwatchingtower TREPP complements the 2 kilometre long boardwalk through the boglands in West-Estonia, Tuhu bog. It invites its users to value the journey as a process. Visitors are surprised by the white wall which at a closer look turns out to be a observation tower. TREPP is a quarter-rounded wooden building forming a corridor with an open structure running up the stairs that rises up to the level of the observation deck. The structure is covered with a semi-transparent fabric, which limits the visitor’s field of view when moving up the stairs, providing a spacious view from the top.
2018 - SILD, a bridge in the middle of the forest is a multifunctional architectural form. The object marks a crossing of different recreational paths, it spans over the most significant one — President’s path. The top of the bridge can function as a stage for public events or during less busy periods of the year hikers can stay overnight down under the wooden structure. The unexpected symbol on dry gound emphasises Estonian poetic landscapes with small hills and hups in the surrounding. This year’s projected contrasted with the previous ones, popular location dictated a social space for many visitors in the forest instead of a solitude getaway.
The FLOODED summerschool was initiated by b210 architects and Hannes Praks, Head of the Interior architecture department after b210 team had finished with a very successful first semester teaching which had resulted in Wooden megaphones project. B210 felt, that the unique circumsances can sprout in wonderful experiment, testing some similar teaching methods in just 10 days and in extreme conditions.
The design and build summer schools are contextual, the chosen location - beautiful Soomaa (in English: swampland) area consists of large raised bogs, flood-plain grasslands, paludified forests and meandering rivers. Life in Soomaa depends more on climate than anywhere else in Estonia. When vast amounts of water run down the uplands in springs, the rivers of Soomaa cannot contain it all. The water flows over flood-plain grasslands and forests and covers roads, disrupting connection with the rest of the world. In some years, the spring floods have risen by a meter a day for 3–4 days, quickly claiming roads, fields, and on occasion, homes.
The FLOODED Summer School uses the natural flooding in Soomaa as a laboratory for global problems. We use it as a testing ground to find solutions for wet conditions and floating architecture all over the world. The Summer School is a deep and intensive examination into the minimum (spatial) necessities for humans in extreme conditions. The designed and built objects function during the highest water levels of the 5th Season, but can be tested out during the workshop on a river.
Tutors: b210 Architects, Sami Rintala, Hannes Praks, Pavle Stamenovic (Veetee)
2016 - VEETEE is neither a vessel, nor a house: that is maybe the most intriguing aspect of it.The pavilion comprises a series of V-shaped timber profiles and a platform, which float on metal barrels. Veetee allows people to stay in the Soomaa environment without touching land, it is extremely contextual. It offers something to the Soomaa environment that they have not had until now: a public space, a meeting spot on the water – with shade to stay even overnight and a floating fireplace.
2017 - VALA sauna derives its name from the built-in shower facility that gathers rainwater falling on its roof. VALA sauna is unique because of the way the hot core of the sauna and the cool river water have been designed to meet and intertwine in a tiny space. The river stream splashing right under the seats of the hot room was a novel idea. The sauna has been designed in such a way that the sauna visitor can slip into the river water directly from the steam room without having to exit through a door.
2018 - SOOHOTELL. Titled in a semi-grandiose way Bog Hotel, the structure is slim and tall. With nearly 7 metres of height, the lower levels are designed to be flooded. During full flood, the visitor can paddle a canoe straight into the structure and find shelter on the top levels of the structure, whilst the lower levels are submerged. With low water levels, the whole shelter can be used for sleeping, with space for around 15 people.