kaos architects converts 13th-century estonian castle into modern landmark

kaos architects converts 13th-century estonian castle into modern landmark

the 13th-century castle, haapsalu episcopal castle, is among the best preserved fortresses in estonia. the conservation and renovation works of kaos architects saved the monument from deterioration and converted it into a modern visiting centre to serve as an important milestone in developing tourism in the region.




the long and colourful history of haapsalu episcopal castle began when it was built in the 13th century, but since the 17th century the main castle has been in ruins. kaos architects‘ conservation and renovation has resulted in a journey along the walls and within the castle. the renovated castle invites guests to admire the castle’s structure closer and view the picturesque town of haapsalu from an unusually high vantage point. the guests now experience the medieval environment from another level. 




the gardens on the roof terraces, the path floating along the walls and the elegant pavilion bring in freshness and provide an exciting synergy between the new and the old. the exhibition rooms inside the ruins are dark and massive, keeping the antique atmosphere. the architects’ new additions respect the past yet create a modern experience for the visitors. the pathway is like a flowing band, guiding the guest in a journey of impressions from the castle’s history to its present. its bridge-like structure has been attached to the walls by means of steel cantilevers, which were placed so as to minimize any damage to the historical stonework.




kaos architects used wall elements that already had anchorage points for the roof structure, renovated in the 1990s, and attached the bridge to those parts that had already been reconstructed. the bridge remained lightweight due to the pathway’s sheet steel material. the new entrance pavilion references the historical castle and almost appears to be peeking out curiously from behind the wall. the bridge and entrance both connect different levels, ensuring access to the basement, ground level and the roof, therefore serving as the beginning and end point of the journey. 




the pavilion’s floor is level with the ground in the courtyard, while the exhibition room in the basement floor and the personnel rooms are connected by stairs. the pavilion has an open-plan design and is well lit and easily accessible. the building has two entrances, one right near the castle entrance and the other for guiding guests into the courtyard. kaos architects’ renovation has breathed new life into the castle ruins in the heart of the small seaside town of haapsalu. 




project info:


location: lossiplats 3, haapsalu, estonia 

area: 4200 m² 

client: haapsalu ja läänemaa muuseumid 

architecture: kaos architects (margit argus, margit aule, elo-liina kaivo, laura ojala) 

engineering: ehitusekspertiisibüroo (tõnu vana, tiit bürkland), hevac, edites 

construction: as restor exposition 

design: stuudio stuudio

consultant: urve kallaus (taltech) 

photographers: vendo jugapuu, tõnu tunnel 

videography: johannes arro 

landscape architecture: kristiina hellström 

status: completed in 2019



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

edited by: cristina gomez | designboom

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