The NO99 Straw Theatre


Tallinn, Estonia


Theatre NO99




May 2011


November 2011

Design team

Maarja Kask, Karli Luik, Ralf Lõoke, Pelle-Sten Viiburg

Related projects

Skoone bastion proposal & Children’s Town

The Straw Theatre was a temporary architectural installation and blackbox theatre commissioned by the NO99 Theatre as part of the programme celebrating Tallinn as the European Capital of Culture in 2011.  The design concept of the Straw Theatre was to create a pure functional container for the performances and events with minimum spatial program that would shift Tallinner’s sense of urban landscape. Thus, the venue seated 250 people, housed a backstage and a small office, surrounded by a communal public space for various activities, e.g. a playground, a library, an outdoor chess table, hammocks, a vegetable garden and a café.

For the Straw Theatre building Salto Architects won the Annual Architecture Award of the Architecture Endowment of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia 2012 and were nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award 2013, and the building was Highly Commended in Culture Category at the World Architecture Festival in 2011. The Straw Theatre was a highlight of the whole Tallinn Capital of Culture in 2011 program both for smartly activating public space as well as for its international, engaging and in many ways inclusive program.


The Straw Theatre attempted to acknowledge and reactivate the abandoned location to test its potential and bring it back to use with due respect to all the historical layers of the site. Hence, the theatre was situated on the remaining foundation of the previous navy summer theatre, taking into use its stairs and walkway.

©Martin Siplane


©Martin Siplane

straw theatre

©Martin Siplane


©Martin Siplane

“The Straw Theatre was a unique occasion of using straw for a large public building and adjusted to a refined architectural form. As a public building, its main role in terms of sustainability thus was to acknowledge the possibilities of straw and promote renewable materials in general. Making sense of existing ruins of a previous structure also stressed sustainable thinking.”

Comment by the Mies van der Rohe Award board


The Straw Theatre blackbox — a literally black angular edifice — was in use from May to October in an area in central Tallinn which had previously been abandoned for nearly 20 years. The Straw Theatre was built on top of the former Skoone bastion that is one of the best preserved baroque fortifications of Tallinn.

©Martin Siplane

©Martin Siplane

©Martin Siplane


©Martin Siplane


Until the beginning of the 20th century, the bastion worked as a public garden, which later was turned into a park, and in 1948, the Soviet Navy built a summer theatre and concert hall there.

© Estonian National Archives


The summer theatre building burned down to the foundation in 1997, and ever since, the the bastion remained a closed and neglected spot in the centre of town that has been surrounded with real estate controversies and several failed large-scale development plans.

© Estonian National Archives

no99 salto

The Straw Theatre was the first large public building that was made of straw material and adjusted it to a refined architectural form. The theatre was a simple gluelam construction filled with uncovered straw bales. For fire safety, the straws were sprayed with special protection, however, the inside of blackbox was roughly plastered to secure the robust surfaces from overheating and providing fitting acoustics.

As the building was temporary, it was not insulated as a the straw constructions usually would require, but was kept open to experience the raw tactile qualities of the material and accentuate the symbolic level of the life cycle of this sustainable material.


©Martin Siplane


©Martin Siplane

The Deer Hunter play by M.Cimino/T.Ojasoo/E.Semper in The Straw Theatre blackbox

©Tiit Ojasoo

Position plan of the Straw Theatre in Skoone bastion

pohuteater salto ab

Elevation to the East

Floor plan