In late Thirties, the Estonian Government decided to erect an office building for the President of the Republic to his residence, to the immediate vicinity of the historical Kadriorg Palace. Those years also saw the renovation of the old Kadriorg Park. The area of the Swan Pond was redesigned and a children’s park created. The concert ground designed by architect Alar Kotli was built in 1937. Even the post-war generation still remembers the band shell of the concert ground, and the abundance of different flowers of the adjacent rock garden. The changes in the park were introduced in accordance with the wishes of President Konstantin Päts, which have been recorded in numerous correspondence still available today.
The building of the Office of the President of the Republic was completed in summer 1938. The house was designed by architect Alar Kotli. The building was spacious, and also the Office of the Legal Chancellor and the administration of the Committee of Decorations moved in. In the wings there were living quarters of Elmar Tambek, Director of the President’s Office, of the Senior Aide-de-Camp Grabbi, the Chief Accountant and the chauffeur.
Designing the new Kadriorg Palace, Alar Kotli faced a complicated task requiring great discretion. He located the building on the same axis with the old Kadriorg Palace. The new building was not to infringe the integrity of the gorgeous ethereal ensemble of baroque architecture. Therefore, the back of the administrative building facing the old palace is serene and fairly modest, compared to the abundantly decorated fa?ade. The garden connecting the two palaces was completely re-landscaped. As far as our brief summers allow it, the garden was and still is used for ceremonial purposes. In early summer, the President receives the best school and university graduates there. In summertime, the garden is open to visitors.
The interior design works were accomplished with great craftsmanship, and the result is festive. Today, the building has several functions. It houses the Head of State’s working office and audience rooms, the Office of the President of the Republic, and the President’s official residence.
The main entrance to the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia is accentuated by a portico-cum-balcony structure. Originally, the main entrance was decorated with heraldic lions of bronze, symbols of power, a work by Voldemar Mellik. The sculptures were lost during the occupations.
The stately entrance leads to the ground floor foyer, whence corridors lead sideways to the President’s residence in the north wing and the Office of the President in the south wing.
The foyer has a coffered ceiling, and for the lining on the walls, the polished Vasalemma marble – which forms a beautiful contrast to the cut marble of the main entrance portico – was for the first time introduced by the builders.
The two floors of the house are connected by a round and well-lit stairwell. In the niche of the round oriel there are the bronze portraits of the Estonian statesmen Jaan Tõnisson and Konstantin Päts. The walls of the stairwell are covered with fake marble, and its ceiling is of raised plaster work. From the ground floor, a bow-shaped set of glass doors opens to the garden, where a solitary oak-tree, the eldest of the oakwood that stood here once, has borne witness to the crucial events of the Estonian history for the last five centuries.
The first floor landing gives entrance to the state and working offices of the President of the Republic. The bronze head of Ernst Jaakson, the Grand Old Man of the Estonian diplomacy, whom the President has called the preserver of the continuity of the Republic of Estonia, occupies a prominent place in the most beautiful room of the palace.
The State Council Hall was designed by the architect Alar Kotli himself. The elegant art déco furniture was designed by Richard Wunderlich, who had it made in his own Uus Mööbel company. The original furniture is still in use. The fine doors, elaborated by the same company, have also been preserved. The intarsia overdoors, depicting the various branches of Estonian economy, are by Günther Reindorff. The walls of the hall were once covered with cream-coloured linen damask with a leopard motif, designed by Adamson-Eric and woven at the Pärnu Flax Mill. The present fabric, also presenting the motif of the national coat of arms, was woven in the Ars company a few years ago. For the side wall, a tapestry by Aarne Mõtus, depicting the moment of concluding an agreement between an Estonian elder and the elder of the Vikings, had been ordered. During occupations, the tapestry vanished. The back wall of the State Council Hall was to be covered with a carpet featuring the national coat of arms, which however was never completed. The present tapestry in the Estonian national colours is by Peeter Kuutma.
Under the old Constitution, the Government meetings presided by the President were held in the State Council Hall. Today, the National Defence Council and the President’s Academic Council convene here. The hall is also the venue of several public law procedures, such as the farewell call of the old Government, the presentation of the new Government, the appointment of judges. In this hall, the President meets delegations from abroad; political talks and negotiations are held here.
The President’s working office, or the Big Office, was designed by architect Olev Siinmaa, who in many respects followed the advice of Konstantin Päts. President Päts wished the office to have an ethnic flavour. Yet in Estonia, this would have meant the heavy, sensible rustic furniture of the original interiors of the Estonian peasant cottages; this offered no match to the lustres and Oriental rugs, and was of little use to the architect. The outcome – an art déco design seasoned with ethnic motifs – is somewhat touching in its rustic roughness. The soft furniture, which has been preserved almost entirely, was originally covered with deep blue plush. The wall damask of Adamson-Eric’s design was also blue. Behind the President’ seat there was a large carpet with the national coat of arms; hanging on the walls were a portrait of Johan Laidoner and paintings by Johann Köhler and Oskar Hoffmann. Today, beige is the dominant tone of the office.
The Ambassadors’ Hall is used as a ceremonial room. Here, on the background of the President’s flag with the image of the national coat of arms, the President accepts the credentials of the ambassadors accredited to Estonia. Interstate agreements on presidential level are also signed here. If the President decides to confer distinguished national decorations at Kadriorg, the ceremonies are held in the Ambassadors’ Hall. In this hall, high-ranking visitors are presented to the President, and the media events can be arranged here.
Compared to the millennial Tallinn, the Presidential Palace is a recent building, yet it has lived through many events. It has been witness to the violent interruption of the Estonian statehood, to the arbitrary alien rule, and the restoration of the Estonian independence. Today, the flag of the president of the Republic of Estonia is streaming over the Palace again, as a token that the 29th Estonian Head of State is at home and working.
The Kadriorg Palace is decorated with the following works of art: