KOKO architects awarded grand prix of The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards

KOKO architects won the highest European award for conservation and restoration of cultural heritage – Europa Nostra and European Union Cultural Heritage grand prix for reconstruction design of the Seaplane Harbour.

The award ceremony of Europa Nostra was held in Athens on 16 June. The jury appreciated the restoration of the Seaplane Hangars as a brilliant example of a technically complicated and multi-faceted process that seemed hopeless at the beginning. The judges were impressed by recreating of the historical building into a popular maritime museum and by the role of the hangars as a driving force in the redevelopment of a neglected area of the city. The prestigious award was handed over by the President of Europa Nostra Plácido Domingo, the European Commissioner for Education and Culture Androulla Vassiliou and the President of Greece Karolos Papoulias in the ancient amphitheatre next to Acropolis. Andrus Kõresaar and Raivo Kotov received the award in Athens on behalf of KOKO Architects. Kõresaar says the competition was tight: ”The Europa Nostra award helps to promote this very important Estonian cultural heritage site in the whole world; the award is also a great recognition for the methods and the result of the project.“ The Seaplane Harbour Hangars’ competitors for the award were Kings Cross Station in London, Propylaea building in Acropolis Athens, Medellin’s Roman Theatre in Spain and many others. Urmas Dresen, the director of Estonian Maritime Museum also attended the ceremony: ”If best European films are being awarded at the Cannes festival with the Palme d’Or, the Europa Nostra has a similar status in conservation and restoration of the cultural heritage. We are very grateful to and proud of our partners who contributed to the restoration of the hangars.“ Europa Nostra is the largest and most influential heritage protection organisation in Europe with the network covering more than 50 countries in Europe and elsewhere. 197 projects from 30 European countries were nominated for this golden jubilee year’s Europa Nostra awards. In its 50 years of existence the main award of Europa Nostra was given to Estonia for the first time. The reconstruction of the Seaplane Harbour Hangars of the Estonian Maritime Museum took place in 2009-2012; it was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The reconstruction project was led by the Museum Building Foundation (Muuseumiehituse Sihtasutus), main designer/projector was KOKO Architects, and construction company was Nordecon. Europa Nostra is a European Cultural Heritage network that is dedicated to conservation and restoration of cultural heritage. It was created in 1963; the awards were first given out in 1978. Today Europa Nostra network involves more than 5 million members: 250 member organisations, more than 150 associated organisations (governments, local municipalities, public museums etc.) and more than 1500 private members. Estonian Heritage Association has joined Europa Nostra as a member, the Estonian Architecture Museum is an associated member, and there are also individual Estonian members. The President on Europa Nostra is the world famous opera singer Plácido Domingo. Europa Nostra cultural heritage prizes are being awarded in four categories: conservation of cultural heritage, research, dedicated service by individuals or organisations and education, training and awareness-raising. The first category of conservation and restoration carries the core idea of Europa Nostra and is the highlight of the competition. The award ceremony in Athens on 16 June was part of the annual Europa Nostra Cultural Heritage Congress.
Timeline of the reconstruction of Seaplane Harbour Hangars 2009    Mapping of the Seaplane Harbour Hangars, start of the renovation project. The Hangars were in a terrible disrepair and some international experts considered restoration not feasible. A large-scale reconstruction project and the exposition design were planned. 2010 Construction works started in the spring: reinforcement of the structures, stitching of the cracks, cleaning and reconstruction of the steal armatures. 2011 The shells were covered with a new layer of spray concrete from below and insulation foam from the top, seabed heating system was installed 2012    Decoration and exposition were installed, opening on 11 May 2012.