Treasury of the University of Tartu Museum

  • #Estonia
  • #Tartu
  • #public
  • #renovation
  • #heritage
  • #museum
  • #culture
  • #exhibition
Tartu Ülikooli muuseumi auhinnatud varakamber


Lossi 25, Tartu, Estonia


205 m2


Completed 2012


University of Tartu Museum

Architecture and interior architecture

LUMIA and studio ARGUS

Margit Aule and Margit Argus


Mihkel Karu


  • 2013 - Annual Interior Architecture Award 2012 of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia

6 July 2012 was the opening day of the Treasury of the University of Tartu Museum, a special area accommodating an exhibition of the most valuable historical assets of the university. On display are rarities that speak of the idea and spirit of the university and that had been shown to the public on only a few occasions or even never before.

The exhibition is housed in the ruins of a medieval Tartu Cathedral that have been partially converted into an indoor space by the addition of ceilings in the middle of the 20th century. As a consequence, the pointed arches in the room are medieval but the ceiling and floor are modern. The resulting low room was boldly lowered even more by the architects by adding a suspended ceiling. The design aims at creating the atmosphere of a treasure chamber: by means of the golden suspended ceiling and the display cases, the rooms have been transformed into mysterious, cosy chambers full of finds, providing an environment for the university’s treasures, highlighting their specialness and being as dignified as the exhibited items.

The exhibits have been placed into display cases suspended from the ceiling, which evokes a light feeling of floating in the room. The golden ceiling is seconded by the black walls and the dim, mystical lighting solution. The floors are decorated with thematic graphics: quotes from scientists related to the University of Tartu in typefaces characteristic of the respective periods.

The technical part of the unique ceiling solution was worked out and realised by Kaarel Narro; the display cases were realised by John Berger Eesti, and the graphic design was produced by Polaar Studio.

‘This small but remarkable chamber was inaugurated on 6 July 2012. Photos of the event showing the inside of the treasury revealed an important feature of the exhibition right away: it may well be the most photogenic interior ever created in Estonia. If the room is once again renovated in the future, the coming generations will marvel this visual reminder as a futuristic nod from the past and will maybe even be left wondering “what it was actually like”.’

Karin Paulus

Architectural Historian

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