In the course of more than 800 years, all different rulers have left their mark in Toompea castle complex. The buildings of the castle complex that date from different centuries are like chapters of the history of Estonia.
The Riigikogu building
The Riigikogu building is the only expressionist parliament building in the world. In its interior design, the idea of the house of the representatives of the people has a very important place – the architects have tried to convey the democratic values of the Republic of Estonia in the language of symbols. The choice of colours, ornaments and also the lighting arrangement of the building are carried by this idea.
Everywhere in the building, the décor based on the motif of triangle is used as an ornament. This is not just a surface decoration – the triangular jags model the rooms into a uniform whole. Jags as a central element of décor indicate that every issue has several facets, because the Riigikogu is the place where contradicting positions are discussed and debated. The logo of the Riigikogu is also made up of triangles as the most outstanding motif of the Riigikogu building.
Lobby of the Riigikogu building
The Riigikogu building was the first public building in Estonia that was designed to have electricity and where the architects tried to connect impressive lighting arrangements with Expressionist architecture. The lobby is a good example of that. The ceiling of the lobby is covered by a concrete honeycomb, with an electric light bulb at the top of each cell. The horizontal pyramids emphasize the absence of hierarchy, symbolising the equality of the members of the Riigikogu. The lighting arrangement is enhanced by the brown walls that in combination with the light create an atmosphere reminiscent of a medieval castle.
The main decoration element of the Journalists’ Lobby consists of abstract jagged motifs on the walls and under the ceiling.
Connection with the medieval castle is brought out by the sidestones of a window bay that date from the beginning of the 16th century. They depict many-seeded and fruitful thistle and grapevine that represent a paradisiacal motif of the tree of life. A special feature of the room are the arched vaults that create an interesting sound effect – if something is quietly whispered in one corner, it can be clearly heard in the opposite corner.
The journalists’ Lobby has traditionally been used for interviewing the members of the Riigikogu and therefore this room is well known to the public.
The most outstanding room of the Riigikogu building is the Session Hall that extends through two floors. The pleated ceiling of the room can be seen as the metaphor of ploughing the field of law. The walls are separated from the ceiling by a zigzag cornice, behind which lamps are hidden. Ventilation used to be conducted through the row of globes below the cornice. The Session Hall is enlivened by the rust-brown sides of the window and door openings decorated with the zigzag motif. The furniture of the Riigikogu building was designed by Herbert Johanson and made in the Luther Furniture Factory. As the representative of the Luther Factory was not able to obtain curly birch from Finland, the furniture is covered by the veneer of Estonian silver birch. The tables were originally covered with green woollen cloth and the chairs had dark blue Manchester velvet covers.
In the front end of the Session Hall, there is the presidium table, and in the niches behind it, if you look from the direction of the hall, on the left there is the box for the members of the Government and on the right, the Presidential Box. On the second floor of the hall, there are balconies for the press and the visitors.
The Riigikogu building has been thoroughly renovated after the restoration of independence. The original colour and lighting arrangements have been restored in all important rooms.
The sittings of the Riigikogu are open, and all who are interested are welcome to visit the sittings and also enjoy the unique interior decoration of the Session Hall.
The most distinguished room of the Baroque-facaded Province Government building is the White Hall that is situated in the central part of the main floor. The elegant White Hall opens to both sides of the building, and it was designed in the 18th century to be an outstanding and magnificent room in the early Classicist style. The hall was decorated with artificial marble panels with antique motifs, victory trophies in white stucco relief. The panels were topped by vases and victory wreaths. The rooms of the main floor, together with the White Hall, form an enfilade running north-south, opening towards the Castle Square.
Originally, the White Hall was the ceremonial hall of Russian governors. Festive events, like concerts, balls and official meetings, were held here. After Estonia had become independent, in 1919–1922, the hall was used for the sittings of the Constituent Assembly and later the Riigikogu. When the Riigikogu building had been completed in the courtyard of Toompea Castle, the White Hall was used by the Government of the Republic of Estonia.
During the authoritarian regime that was established in 1934, the buildings that symbolised nationhood were redecorated according to the requirements of the new period. The White Hall was also rebuilt and the décor by Johann Schultz completely removed. The aim was to turn the hall into the cabinet of the Government. The renovation of the White Hall and also the construction of additional buildings proceeded from palatial formal traditionalism. Historical style architecture was used to demonstrate the strength and fortitude of the young state.
The White Hall is now used as a ceremonial hall of the Riigikogu.
In front of the end wall with the paintings, there are the national flags that are often used as the background for official photographs.
The Renaissance style ceiling with its hanging décor, recognisably influenced by Ancient Rome, has been preserved from the redecorations of 1935 without changes. The chandeliers, which were commissioned from Belgium in 1935, have also been preserved.
Office of the President of the Riigikogu
The working rooms of the President of the Riigikogu are located in the eastern wing of Toompea Castle, in the former living rooms of the governor. The enfilade of rooms ends with an original mirror wall in the northern wall, designed by Johann Schultz. These rooms were used by the State Elders in the 1930s, in the end of the 1930s they became the official residence of the Prime Minister. When Estonia had regained its independence, the office of the Prime Minister was located here until 2000. The Prime Ministers of Estonia who have used these rooms are Edgar Savisaar, Tiit Vähi, Mart Laar, Andres Tarand and Mart Siimann. After the renovation, the rooms were furnished with both historical and modern furniture.
After the restoration of the independence of Estonia, the historical interior of Toompea Castle complex has been slowly but steadily restored. The interior design of those rooms where it is not possible to restore the historical appearance is based on centuries-old traditions and the dignity of the institution located here.
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