Tsuyoshi Tane: Architecture and “Memory Fields” (Part 1)



Based in Paris, architect Tsuyoshi Tone began receiving global attention after winning the open competition to select a design for the Estonian National Museum. In this first part of Premium Japan’s interview with Tane, we spoke mainly about this project, which was finally completed 10 years after the competition itself.

Designing the Estonian National Museum at age 26

On October 1, 2016, the Estonian National Museum designed by DGT. (Dorrell. Gohotmeh. Tane/Architects) opened its doors. DGT. is a Paris-based architectural office opened jointly by the Italian Dan Dorrell, Lebanese Lina Gohotmeh, and Japanese Tsuyoshi. When the international competition to select the architect for the museum was held in 2005, Tane was only 26.

“I was working at an architectural office in London at the time. I was already friends with Lina and Dan, and we decided to try entering a major competition together. We found the Estonian competition, and even though it was an international project, it was open to submissions from unknown young architects with no records like ourselves. We spent three weeks preparing our entry, and in the end we won. We were more surprised than anyone. The three of us left our jobs right away and opened an office together.”

Recalling the ten years since, Tane notes that you cannot discuss the history of Estonia, one of the three Baltics, without mentioning its history of rule by larger neighboring countries. The formation of the Estonian people took place around the 10th century, but from the 13th century through to the beginning of the 20th there was a long period of rule by foreign powers including German nobility, Sweden, and Russia.

(2)rd1700_EE01_05(3)rd1700_EE01_12Above: Estonian National Museum, 2016 (Courtesy of DGT. Photos by Takuji Shimmura)
The Estonian National Museum was built in the country’s second-largest city, Tartu. The 355-meter long building was designed almost like an extension to the existing military runway on-site. The mildly angled roof represents soaring into the future.

Estonia became independent in 1918 following the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, but in 1940 it was occupied by the Soviet Armed Forces, and the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union after the end of World War II. Just before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia declared the reestablishment of its independence, and the Estonia of today was born.

The establishment of a national museum was one of three pledges made when independence was declared, along with the establishment of a national museum of art and a college of music. Given this history, it is clear that this project is intimately related to the ethnic and historical identity of this new state. How the proposal from DGT. made this part of the architectural design surprised many.


Next page: “Finding meaning even in ‘negative heritage’