The Session Hall of the Riigikogu may be called the most important hall of the Republic of Estonia because the laws and resolutions that have been passed here since 1922 have formed the basis for the organisation of life in our country. In addition to the workplaces of the 101 members of the Riigikogu, there are also seats for the chair of the sitting, for the Government and the President of the Republic, and also for diplomats and journalists in the Session Hall.
The most important workroom
The convent house that had been built in the inner courtyard of Toompea Castle in the 13th century was made into a prison in the 19th century. The new Riigikogu building was erected at the place where the convent house once stood and opened in autumn 1922. Since then, all laws and resolutions of the Republic of Estonia have been passed in that building.
In the front end of the Session Hall, there is the table of the chair of the sitting of the Riigikogu, and in the niches behind it, if you look from the direction of the hall, on the left there is the box of the Government and on the right, the box of the President of the Republic. The cave-like boxes at the back of the hall were originally meant for the press. The door behind the seat of the chair of the sitting is used only by the President of the Riigikogu.
The Press Balcony on the western side of the Session Hall of the Riigikogu is intended for journalists and diplomats. On the northern side, there is the balcony for visitors with three openings, where everybody who is interested can come to watch the sitting of the parliament.
In the beginning of the 1920s, the Riigikogu building with its Expressionist style exterior was considered one of the most modern parliamentary buildings in the world.
The interior of the building, including the Session Hall and its furniture, are also in that style. The Session Hall of the Riigikogu extends through two floors. Its most outstanding features are the arched ceiling, balconies and niches of the Government and President’s boxes.
The arching pleated ceiling can be regarded as the most attractive feature of the Session Hall of the Parliament. The walls are separated from the ceiling by a zigzag cornice, behind which lamps are hidden. The use of reflected light emitted by hidden luminaires was a very innovative approach in the 1920s.
The pointed arch motif created by curve of the ceiling at the intersection of the pleats is a reminder that the building was erected between the walls of a castle built during the Gothic period. Under the zigzag cornice there is a ball frieze, which was originally used for ventilation.
The colour scheme of the Session Hall is also typical of Expressionism: lemon yellow ceiling, ultramarine blue walls and rust brown sides of the window and door openings decorated with the zigzag motif. The cold yellow tone of the ceiling was balanced by the warm yellow tones in the lower part of the room. The warm tones were created by the wooden parquetry floor and light birch veneer furniture. The furniture was enlivened by contrasting black details and the dark blue Manchester plush of the seats, which harmonised with the rows of black balls above the press boxes. Such a colour scheme was not widespread in the 1920s, and the members of the parliament were not very happy with it. In1926 they sent a letter to the President of the Riigikogu, complaining that because of the light-absorbing dark wall, it was too dark for them to read, and their eyes and heads hurt. Architect Herbert Johanson, who had designed the building, replied that the Chancellery should place more powerful light bulbs behind the cornice and repaint the ceiling.
In order to create a single composition for the Riigikogu building and the Session Hall, the architects also designed the furniture. It was made in the Luther Furniture Factory in Tallinn according to the drawings of Eugen Habermann and Herbert Johanson. As it was not possible to obtain curly birch from Finland, it was decided to cover the furniture with Estonian silver birch veneer.
The present appearance of the Session Hall follows its original design from the beginning of the 1920s. It was restored during the large-scale renovation in summer 1997, led by interior designer Leila Pärtelpoeg. Old photos were used to restore the original interior of the hall. Paint samples were taken from the walls. During the Soviet period, the walls of the hall were bluish grey and the ceiling dark white.
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