The whole house has a very solid totality – the way you see it in the landscape when you approach, and how it looks out at the landscape from inside. From placement to detailing, everything seems to work together. From the hooks for hanging your jacket to the technological solutions of the exposition. It is a very successful abstraction of a medieval feel without being romantic. It tells us what is new and what represents the old, cleverly in a balanced way. Also, the outdoor material – Corten steel – suits very well. It is a kind of militant castle-like material, placed well with the colour of the old brick. A highly positive building.
Eesti Arhitektide Liidu aastapreemia žürii liige /Rintala Eggertsson Architects
Many people take up pilgrimages today because they need a change of scenery. Some people need to be alone and this way start a journey of self-discovery. Others take it as a mere change. We will never really know who actually dwell deeper into it and who don’t. Lagle Parek, the initiator of the pilgrimage route from Pirita Convent to Vana-Vastseliina
River Piusa and Meeksi Stream have sculpted deep primeval valleys in Vastseliina in Võru County, with their slopes leading travellers to the ruins of the 14th century episcopal castle, tavern and pilgrims’ house.
The inward-looking disposition of pilgrims and the historic environment exuding natural beauty became the inspiration for the new building. The volume of the house is largely hidden within the slope extending away from the historic site above the stream and thus allowing views of the castle. Ivar Traagel, linnuseisand
The architecture of the new building is modern and distinctive while the volume and materials remain in dialogue with the environment.
In creating the building, we aimed at finding a balance between the imitation of the medieval space and the contemporary needs. The interior conveys the atmosphere of a medieval space in contemporary form: high ceilings, small windows in seemingly random places, narrow staircases inside the walls, brick floors and modern technology carefully hidden in the furniture.
The ascetically minimalist, yet poetic pilgrims’ house is engaged in an architectural dialogue with the medieval castle, thus providing not only an opportunity to absorb the medieval feel and time for introspection, but also an aesthetic experience.
WE STARTED BY SEARCHING FOR A LOCATION FOR AN EXPERIENCE CENTRE – where to place it within the grounds. On the banks of the valley, with beautiful views of the creek, the building blends well into the landscape. With the Vastseliina Episcopal Castle right alongside, we were under strict limitations – and the Heritage Conservation Board also had its own requirements for the exterior.
THE CLIENT HAD A VERY SPECIFIC room listing. In order to start presenting the history of medieval pilgrimages to tour groups, they needed display rooms: a kitchen with a large bread oven, a scrubbing room with baths, a dormitory, a tavern. And a prayer room, that is to say, a chapel. We brought in specialists: Krista Anderson, who has focused on pilgrimage topics, and Risto Paju, a researcher from the Tallinn City Museum.
UPON ENTERING THE HOUSE, you first descend down a steep wallside staircase. The windows, small like battlements, also evoke the medieval times. We wanted the space to be poetic and meditative, even ascetic.
The materials are also medieval references: the walls and ceilings are covered in lime mortar; the floors are lined with fired bricks. There is wood, oxidized burnt black metal, brass. The relief of the chandeliers in the chapel roof mimics a two-dimensional castle wall with defence towers. The tables have drawn-on tableware and writings of medieval recipes. Graphics are used to mark out the sheets on the beds and the library next to the entrance.
The rooms are slightly shifted, the doors and ceilings unusually tall. Even the fact that the doors are half a meter taller than normal greatly affects the room as a whole – how the light moves, etc.
THE PILGRIMAGE HOUSE is a showroom aimed at tour groups, but if you visit it alone, you may find it a place of introspection. It has no phone signal, and you are left face-to-face with yourself. True pilgrims will, indeed, get shelter here – it is now possible to hike the pilgrimage path from the Pirita Convent to the chapel at Vana-Vastseliina. My own favourite spot is the chapel itself – an ascetic space with a wonderful view of the valley. You hear a spiritual song from the Codex Calixtinus, which eventually blends together with sounds of the forest and the sea from Fred Jüssi’s record Cardium. Once the nature sounds dissipate, you are left once again with a quiet hymnal.
THE MOST SATISFYING THING FOR ME is that the house works as a whole. During implementation, we often worried about reconciling the client’s vision with our own. We did not want to create a faux medieval place; rather, we were looking for a delicate solution that evoked the medieval within contemporary architecture, in the senses and atmosphere. Fortunately, the client worked with us.