Valve Pormeister

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Valve Pormeister née Ulm (13 April 1922 – 27 October 2002) was an Estonian architect. She was the first women to influence the development of Estonian architecture, becoming one of the country's most inventive modernizers of rural architecture in the 1960s and 1970s.[1] She is often known as the "Grand Old Lady" of Estonian architecture.[2]


Pormeister was born in Tallinn, and studied landscape architecture and agronomy at Tartu University. After graduating from the Estonian State Art Institute, she first worked at the Estonian Agricultural Design Institute (1952) but soon moved from landscaping to designing buildings. Despite the fact that she was a woman in a country where architecture had always been a man's profession, she gained wide recognition with her very first work, the Flower Pavilion in Tallinn (1960). Designed as an exhibition venue, the pavilion became a landmark of post-Stalinist architecture with its organic, light appearance, its transparency and its affinity to nature. In the Soviet era, the pavilion became extremely popular with up to 5,000 visitors a day who were attracted by the colourful displays of spring flowers. Pormeister went on to design a gardening exhibition centres in Tallinn and one for a horticultural institute in Moscow (1964). Her early style was influenced by the soft Nordic modernistic trends developing in Finland, one of the few countries Estonians were permitted to visit at the time. In addition, Finnish television could be received in Estonia and specialized Finnish magazines were also available. This explains the advent of lighter materials such as wood and plaster creating a more user-friendly appeal. In her Café Tuljak (1965), an extension to the Flower Pavilion, Pormeister was also inspired by Finnish trends, this time by rather heavier, right-angled style with dark wooden cornices.[1]

Pormeister's next important project was another Nordic-styled work, the main building of the Kurtna Poultry Farm (1966). Her careful planning, attention to detail and use of matching materials inside and out culminated in a building perfectly suited to its surroundings. It was seen by her contemporaroes as being influenced by Alvar Aalto although Pormeister stated she had been strongly influenced by Richard Neutra. Larger projects followed, including Saku's Plant Protection Centre (1975), the Technical School at the State Farm in Jäneda (1975) and the neo-functionalist canteen at the State Farm in Audru (1978). She also build two important buildings on the outskirts of Tartu: the Institute of Cattle Breeding and Veterinary Science (1984) and an addition for the Estonian Academy of Agriculture (1984) on the banks of the Emajõgi River.[1]


Pormeister's many varied styles introduced new trends in Estonia, always taking the surrounding landscape fully into consideration. Her works remain masterpieces of post-war Modernism. Her position in Estonian architecture was confirmed when the first personal exhibition of architecture in the post-war period was the 1972 display of her works in the Flower Pavilion. Her works also served as a source of inspiration for many of her contemporaries.[1][3]


  • Jänes, Liina: Valve Pormeister - Eesti maa-arhitektuuri uuendaja, näitus (Estonian rural architecture innovator, an exhibition), 2005, Tallinn, Eesti Arhitektuurimuuseum, 96 pp. ISBN 9985-9400-9-1.


  • State Award of the Soviet SSR for designing of the Saku, Kurtna and Vinni communities (1971)
  • Soviet Estonian award for the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds and Choir Stand (1965)
  • Soviet Estonian award for landscape architecture at the Kurtna Poultry Experimental Station (1967)[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Liina Jänes, "Valve Pormeister - Soviet Estonian star architect", Estonian Art 1/05. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Varje Kuusik, "Architect Valve Pormeister", Ajaloo Asakond. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  3. "Valve Pormeister 13. IV 1922 – 27. X 2002", (Estonian) Retrieved 14 February 2012.