PICTURES: Students create giant wooden megaphones to help people listen to Estonian nature

If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? So the old saying goes. But that question may soon have an answer thanks to a team of architecture students who have installed three giant wooden megaphones in Võrumaa, at the Pähni Nature Centre.

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Students from the Estonian Academy of Arts have created the wooden structures, which have a three-metre wide diameter, to listen to the sounds of the forest. They operate as a “bandstand” for the surrounding forest and amplify the natural noises of nature.

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The project’s initiator, Hannes Praks, who leads the school’s interior architecture department, said the installations had been placed “at such a distance and at a suitable angle, so at the centre of the installation, sound feed from all three directions should create a unique merged surround sound effect”.

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The megaphones also double as sitting and resting spaces and were originally thought up and designed by Birgit Õigus after the students were asked to define the concept of a forest library with Valdur Mikita, an Estonian semiotician and popular author.

Õigus, 21, told Estonian World: “From the beginning it was clear to me that I wouldn’t bring any books to the woods. Let the books stay in the regular libraries. So I got an idea to create an audio library. This installation is called Ruup. Ruup’s main idea is to bring sounds from outside into the room I created.”
“The Forest has an endless assortment of “audio-books” and it is always renewing itself. This is how the idea came. It is a place for ultimate relaxing – an environment to escape from all the habitual. Ruup’s one aim is to push one of our main sense perception – putting vision in the background and to focus on hearing,” Õigus explained.

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Mikita, who has written at length about the ways Estonian culture is intertwined and imbued with forests, says the architectural design helps to notice the richness of sound in forests as well as the silence. “It’s a place to listen, to browse the audible book of nature – there hasn’t really been a place like that in Estonia before.”

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Coursemates Mariann Drell, Ardo Hiiuväin, Lennart Lind, Henri Kaarel Luht, Mariette Nõmm, Johanna Sepp, Kertti Soots, Sabine Suuster helped out with the building process which took place near Tallinn at the end of August.

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The megaphones were then transported to their installation space in Võru county, near the Latvian border, installed and opened to the public for free on 18 September. Since then, pictures of Ruup have been posted online and travelled around the world.

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Õigus said: “Of course I was surprised, I had never thought that they could create so much interest from all over the world.”
“I think that the project worked out well and it was a great success that we found just the right place for them – in the forest in the middle of nowhere.”


Photos: Henno Luts and Tõnu Tunnel.

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