The NO99 theater in the center of Tallinn, Estonia ranks high on our list of the coolest short-term cultural destinations we've seen up lately. Unlike another temporary theater in Estonia made from stacked wood, Salto Architects' design was constructed entirely out of sustainable straw bales and it will stay up for six months to celebrate the fact that Tannin was voted Europe's 2011 Capital of Culture. Kept in place with stacked trusses, the straw bales have been left raw as if they were still out on the field - except that they've been painted black for high visual impact.
The strawbale building replaces a previous theater used to entertain soviet troops, which has been abandoned for two decades. NO99 explores the possibility of reinvigorating this historically important site in a sustainable, but still dramatic way. Perched high on a hill, the theater is long, rectangular, and wraps around a moderate grade.
Because it is only designed for summer use, Salto made no arrangements to cover or insulate the building. Instead, they left it raw, reinforced the straw bales with stable steel trusses, and spray-painted it black. Also included on the site, increasing its earth-loving appeal, are numerous outdoor activities including an oversized chess board, table tennis, swings, and a baking oven. We love this project: although it’s not super fancy and doesn’t incorporate high-flying technology, it is definitely borne out of a respect for nature. And ultimately, that’s what we’re all about.