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Kavakava Architects | University of Tartu Narva College

Architecture KAVAKAVA narva_06 photo Kaido Haagen

New university built into destroyed old town area records both the absence of the Old Town and it’s rebuilding.

KAVAKAVA narva_01 photo Kaido HaagenContext

Narva is a border city between Russia and Estonia. Prosperity of the city was in 17th century, when under the Swedish reign new baroque-style city center was developed. The Old Town was destroyed during WWII and after when it was demolished and replaced with modernist city. After the war local people were not allowed to return to the city, new habitants were brought in from Soviet Union.

KAVAKAVA narva_02 photo Kaido HaagenSite

The college is built on the area of Narva’s no longer existent Old Town with the main façade opening towards the Town Hall Square. In front of the building is a square, marking the site of the former stock exchange building and creating main entrance to the college.

KAVAKAVA narva_03 photo Kaido haagenConcept

Main idea is to clearly mark the historical volume of the stock exchange building. New building consists of two conceptual halves – first half is the stock building reconstructed as a void and another half is a material building, new college itself.

KAVAKAVA narva_04 photo Kaido HaagenThe old Stock Exchange Building was situated straight in the centre of the town and covered partly even Town Hall’s main facade. New solution records exactly the situation but replaces former mass by conceptual void and allows the Town Hall to dominate on the Square.


New building refers directly to the Stock Exchange Building that stood there before. The previous building’s Baroque front elevation is marked by “in reverse” form on the College’s new festive main facade, which is cast in white concrete. Its projecting beak-shaped roof follows the gable line and roof of the Stock Exchange Building in reverse. As a result, new square is formed in front of the College i.e. on the site of the Stock Exchange Building. New main façade with the “reversed” roof draw out the contours of the Stock Exchange Building that used to stand here.

KAVAKAVA narva_08 photo Kaido HaagenThe rest of three sides of the building have discreet appearance. The aim behind them is to follow nthe façade style characteristic to old Narva, which had mostly plain stone walls without subdivisions with only door portals and window frames rising upwards. There are regular window– openings in the plastered brick walls of the new building, nuances are added to strict layout by the various depths of the windows. Glass walls looking towards the courtyard create a light and spacious impression inside a quite small building.

KAVAKAVA narva_17 photo Anu VahtraThe interior is compact but instantly recognizable – its purpose is to create an academic yet non-formal environment. Spacious foyer has solved as large steps to create a suitable background for the students’ interaction between the lectures. Inner circulation has been arranged around the courtyard.

KAVAKAVA narva_05 photo Kaido HaagenOld basement of the Stock Exchange under the square is restored and partly rebuilt. Central room is vaulted similarly to the original one. The rooms will be used for exhibitions and events.

KAVAKAVA narva_13 photo Anu Vahtra

KAVAKAVA narva_14 photo Anu Vahtra

Location: Raekoja plats 2, Narva, Estonia
Architects: Siiri Vallner, Indrek Peil, Katrin Koov KAVAKAVA (team Heidi Urb, Maarja Tüür, Andro Mänd, Sten Mark Mändmaa, Helina Lass) 
Interior design: Hannes Praks
Structural engineer: Maari Idnurm, Siim Randmäe EEB OÜ
Project time: 2005 – 2012
Plot surface: 2 812m2
Built surface: 2 109m2
Building neto surface area: 4741m2
Client: University of Tartu
Photos: Kaido Haagen, Anu Vahtra
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