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Kaos Architects, Estland, Pilgerhaus

A Look Into the Middle Ages: Pilgrims’ House in Estonia

When pilgrims have mastered the steep slopes of Võru, where the waters of the Piusa and Meeksi cut into the land, they come to a small group of buildings comprising an old inn, a new hostel and a ruined medieval castle. This bishop’s castle, now more than 600 years old, has always been an important destination for pilgrims. Today, the ruins have been resuscitated as an exhibition venue providing information about medieval culture.

The new pilgrims’ hostel by KAOS Architects stands at a respectful distance to the castle ruins. Modestly set into the mountain, it clearly shows what is new and what points to history. The red-brown, weathered steel façade takes up shades from the colour palette of the ruins, for the castle was built of red brick and granite. As it was in former castles, the façade of the Pilgrims’ House is broken up with small openings that create targeted views over the historical situation. The interior has a medieval flair as well: high rooms and doors, wall-like stairways, niches plus stone floors and walls take up forgotten building methods in this new structure. In fact, the design was inspired by various components of the ruined castle.

For KAOS Architects, this project became a pilgrimage in itself. The architects designed the building in the framework of an intense examination of the surroundings. With great sensitivity, they took up the historical atmosphere of the place, yet responded to modern conventions in well-balanced proportions. The Pilgrims’ House will give visitors scenic views of a time long past and insight into the medieval lifestyle. The result is a building that absorbs the history of its location and conveys it to the pilgrims who come here.

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