Tartu Nature House

Location: Tartu, Estonia

Year:  2012

Status: Competition

Size: 2,470 m²

Program: Cultural

Project team: Alver Architects (Andres Alver, Tarmo Laht, Indrek Rünkla, Ulla Saar, Sven Koppel)


Because the function of the building was to be a tool for exploring and teaching about nature, it took a natural phenomenon – sod – as it’s generarting concept. Using the phrase “mining for knowledge” as a metaphor, the building looks like a piece of geological substrate which is extracted from the ground and lifted up, exposing the different geological layers on its facade, while transfering the original landscape onto its roof. The surrounding area remains unchanged, making the building the only “intrusion”. Inside, the building is composed of separate rooms arranged around a central atrium and made fit into a clear volume. The building structure is made up of glue-laminated timber and reinforced concrete, with the facade made of timber elements which both function as solar shields, and are specifically treated in order to accomplish varying textures on the facade. The building features a number of elements geared to educate visitors – mostly children – about sustainable practices, such as photovoltaic cells on the glass roof of the atrium and a greenhouse, among others.