Memorial of the Victims of Communism in Estonia / Armin Valter + Joel Kopli

Courtesy of Armin Valter + Joel Kopli

Armin Valter and Joel Kopli shared with us their competition winning proposal for the Memorial of Victims of Communism in Estonia. Situated on/in northern coastal limestone cliff near town Paldiski, which was a closed military nuclear submarine base in soviet times, their design attempts to revitalize the place and bring more awareness to people of the region. More images and architects’ description after the break.

The memorial is taking inspiration from strong metaphysical feeling in this landscape. Architecture of the memorial contains symbolic features, which is here to discover by the visitors. Large 20 m deep and 20 m diameter hole is cut into the limestone cliff. When inside, this surrounds the visitor like the Iron Curtain in soviet times. Spiral staircase leading from upper level to the bottom is like the element of uncertainty, which was common in soviet society. When passing through the staircase, visitor do not see the beginning or the end of the stair. This leads to journey without knowing the length nor the position on the path, just like the emotions were under the communist regime.

Courtesy of Armin Valter + Joel Kopli

Like the history has shown, there is always a ray of light, hope for freedom. So has the Memorial an element for representing this emotion. When standing inside the Memorial, on the bottom of the large hole, cladded with bricks which is recycled from the old soviet time abandoned buildings, visitor could see the passage to the west and sea through it. 66m long passage goes through the limestone cliff, reaching to the sea at the end. Passage is pointed exactly to the west, in that way there is two days in the year when sun shines trough it minutes before setting to the sea. On spring and autumn solstice the sun lights up the memorial tablet on the opposite eastern wall. These are the rays of light, hope for freedom. Memorial plate on the eastern wall represents the communist occupation in Estonia, which came from the east. Sea from the west is synonym of freedom, free world which always was to the west from Estonia.

site plan

In the middle of the Memorial is the place for candles, placed freely on the ground it forms a moving, changing installation of light. Also on the walls are occasional bricks protruding from the wall, making little stands for candles. This together is like a little microcosmos, model of the metaphysical world in our minds, surrounded by the candlelights like sparks of vanished soles. Still there is always a ray of light, the way to freedom, we just have to find it.

lower level plan and section

Architects: Armin Valter + Joel Kopli Location: Paldiski, Estonia Competition Holder: State of Estonia Status: First prize

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Cite: Alison Furuto. "Memorial of the Victims of Communism in Estonia / Armin Valter + Joel Kopli" 03 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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