VARES is an international interdisciplinary residency for spatial practice, whose main task is to seek, find and create alternative spatial practices that are not based on market logic, but rather on the desire to create spaces and places that enrich everyday life, empower the local community and town of Valga.
We are interested in finding ways to practice slow architecture, critically rethinking the discipline of architecture, learning and resurrecting vernacular and traditional crafts, gathering old and used materials and creating a place for lifelong learning for architects and spatial artists. VARES is a part of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 main programme.
→ Residency period: 1–2 months during February–December 2024
→ Individuals & collectives from different disciplines
→ Funded residency + travel support
→ Applications open until November 20, 2023
How do we act as architects in a world where spatial practices are driven by market logic? Where building new is preferred over repairing the existing? Where standardised architecture and design is overproduced while unique and regional vernacular techniques are disappearing? Could it be that the standardisation of ways of making and their concentration only in the hands of specialists manifests itself over time in the spaces around us and in the lives that are lived there, losing the unexpected, original and strange?
Somewhat idealistic in our approach, we seek to rethink and practise alternative ways of creating spaces, using already existing places and materials from urban and peripheral environments. We explore manual crafts in architecture by combining old techniques with new technologies and skills while always bearing in mind the wider picture: where materials come from, how long can a building last and what happens after. Instead of building new, our focus is on maintenance – how to creatively refurbish, retrofit and reuse existing spaces, how to harvest and reuse both valuable and fast fashion materials for new projects. Though more time consuming, the extended life cycle of materials is one of the core beliefs of the residency.
With delicate and sparing approach to materials and reuse as an indisputable starting point, we also encourage residents to explore various topics of their own interest, vast or small – from reinventing everyday routines, domestic spaces or objects with an imaginative angle to it, to research-based urban explorations or speculative utopianism and societal critique.
The residency and the town of Valga will become the stage and testing ground for the artists’ projects.The VARES building, a two-storey house that for the past hundred years has been used as a school, will transform into a “House Museum” that will embody the ideas, amusing inventions and theories proposed, researched and built in the residency.
VARES is open to anyone whose practical and theoretical work aligns with the residency’s aims and goals. We invite both established professionals, amateurs, students; heritage specialists, architects, geographers, builders, landscape artists, urbanists, writers, thinkers and tinkerers, performers, researchers, practitioners and theorists who wish to define, create and practise alternative ways of making and using spaces.
The Open Call is available for both individuals and groups to apply. Artists with families are also welcome. The residency offers accommodation and basic workshop options within the residency building, with more specific workshop conditions available in Valga that will be organised according to the residents’ needs. In addition the residents have full access to our old materials’ storage and are welcome to add to it as well.
During the stay we provide the resident with a daily living budget and work budget to realise the project. The timeframe of attending the residency is approximately 1-2 months, but is flexible according to the artist’s project (exact dates can be discussed after the open call selection). From each resident we expect a presentation, exhibition or event surrounding their work to be shown at the end of the residency, for the Valga public and wider audience in Estonia and Latvia.
The VARES residency is situated approximately 3.5 hours from Tallinn by train and 2.5 hours from Riga. The building is 400 metres from the Latvian border and 5 minutes by foot from the Valga town centre. The residency offers a couple of bikes as means of transport around the town and additional engine assistance can be arranged (vans, cars etc.).
For the application, we ask you to provide us with:
→ Motivation letter, ca one A4: Ideas or a project plan for the duration of the residency stay (ideas, themes to explore, experimentation plans). The suggested work plan should fit the general philosophy of the residency.
→ Visual material (not mandatory): Scheme, photograph, collage, diagram, project, video, etc to accompany the motivation letter – max 25 MB.
→ CV and portfolio: The applicant will not be judged by the CV and portfolio, but is there to give a wider understanding of the person applying.
→ Time at the residency: Desired residency dates (several suitable periods can be suggested).
Deadline for the Open Call is 20th of November 23:59 Eastern European Time.
For applying or any questions, please send them to email@example.com.
The choice of residents will be made by the VARES curators and project managers (Margus Tammik, Mari Möldre, Merilin Kaup, Triin Reidla and Ulla Alla) and results will be sent via email latest on the 30th of November.
In the first days of November, architecture students of the 1st year of Estonian Academy of Arts settled in VARES for an introduction to the Shelter course. Shelters are projects made during the first year of architecture studies – experiments with space, form and material on the scale of the human body. Since this year decaying building heritage is treated as a potential building material, the introduction also included field work in abandoned buildings: exploring around, observations with both eyes and hands, including peeking inside the walls and floors, reflections and making conclusions.
Tutors: Elina Liiva, Helena Rummo, Margus Tammik, Mari Möldre, Merilin Kaup
Thank you, @pilvel6hkujad, for filling the house with warmth!
Until October 10th 2023, VARES held an open call for a 2-month funded group residency dedicated to the sketchy materials used in homes and offices around us. Looking at the short life cycle of MDF, OSB and other particle boards used in fast fashion architecture and furniture design, we invite artists, architects and other cultural practitioners to rebuild or destroy the reputation of the simple particle board.
This open call focuses on the theme of “sketchy materials”, referring to the unreliable, dishonest, shady substances that make up a lot of the furniture, walls and floors around us. The growing discussion about material reuse mostly focuses on natural materials (wood, stone and metal), non-composite matter that can be relatively easily disassembled and repurposed for new needs. Recycling and repurposing becomes a lot more tricky with lesser-valued factory produced composite materials like particle boards (MDF, OSB or imitation wood). The low grade formaldehyde soaked boards with a relatively short life cycle are unvalued due to the challenges it brings with repurposing them for new needs and environments. With every IKEA cupboard left behind, every refurbished school or office, more sketchy materials are forgotten, thrown out and discarded. With the poor structural integrity goes hand in hand the debate of material value, how culturally some materials are considered good or bad, and how fast fashion furniture design ends up quickly in the gutters and landfills. The open call is to cultivate an explorative, bricoleurish mindset that always finds ways to work with any kind of materials and found objects, while avoiding mass-produced virgin materials, closing the material loop and creating behavioural change when it comes to how and what kinds of objects we surround ourselves with.
We invited cultural practitioners, architects, students, spatial artists, writers, anyone working and rethinking about the matter and spaces around us to experiment with the sketchy materials. The goal for the residents is to experiment, research, write, rebuild or destroy the reputation of unvalued, toxic, cheap materials, to find meaning in the particle board itself. In the end, the materials around us in their current state, natural or factory made, are the main building blocks for future projects.
The open call was available for both individuals and groups (max 3 people) from the Creative Europe countries to apply. The residency period is two months, 17.06.2024–15.08.2024, and it will end with a group exhibition, which will also be the kick-off event of the 2024 VARES summer school.
In summer 2023, we sent out a call to our colleagues, friends and acquaintances to take part in the activities to adapt the house located at Uus 35 in Valga into a residency and a meeting place for spatial artists. The sessions were spread over two weeks in August: 31.07.–6.08. and 21.–27.08.
During this time, we collectively took on and shared tasks that focused on construction and repair, collection and reuse of old materials, and installation of functions necessary for life in the residency. With the power of group work, we managed to freshen up the lobby area, create a brand new kitchen and dining space, as well as a spa bathroom, all mostly using repurposed elements.
On Saturday, August 26th, we held an open doors day for locals and a party to celebrate with all the helpers. Altogether, over 30 volunteers came to paint, build, clean, tile, invent, discuss, cook and/or hang out. We thank them all very much!
In spring 2023, we tutored the 2nd year interior architecture students of the Estonian Academy of Arts in their semester studio, “Educational Space”. This course focused on hands-on and conceptual expression skills and searched for the possibilities and forms of the “self-educational space” through research, activities, experiments, documentation, reading, formulating and thinking.
In April, we spent a week together at the freshly accessed VARES residency building, and in May the students presented their processes and interactions in the old school house. The themes and topics dissected drying and dying, time, fragility, frustration, forgetting, concentration, comas, moments.
Students/first residents: Marleen Armulik, Katarina Ild, Laura Movits, Getter Pihlak, Elle Marie Randoja, Jaan Repnikov, Sven Christian Arthur Samyn, Mirjam Vaht. Supervisors: Ulla Alla, Merilin Kaup, Mari Möldre, Margus Tammik, Malle Jürgenson. Guest critics: Gregor Taul, Alina Nurmist.
VARES architecture residency is located in a school house built in 1936, which has been used as a boarding school for girls and, lately, an adult distance learning high school.
The residency now has comfortable corners for living, yet the building itself is left raw and open for the residing artists to work on and in.
In addition to 15 wood-fired stoves, the house has two floors, 14 rooms, 4 cubbyholes, a cellar and an attic. Log walls behind brick walls painted dark red, stone foundations and a dark puddle under the concrete vaults in the basement.
Over time, the initial elements have been lined with layers. The original timber floor topped with fiberboard and linoleum. A number of covered-up doors revealed within the walls. Nine layers of paint. And much more. A house like mille-feuille.
Q: What is the residency programme of VARES going to look like? Who should apply?
A: The aim of Valga Architecture Residency or VARES is to host residents, seminars and workshops dealing with spatial practices. The two storey residency building will slowly be transformed into a house museum, a collection of experiments, spatial interventions and ideas left behind by the residents living there.
We welcome international and interdisciplinary residents and guests who wish to experiment with circular materials and handicraft methods, engage with the unique geopolitical position of Valga, do some thematic mental exercises and contribute to creating inspiring alternative spatial experiences for oneself as well as the community.
We are announcing the open call for 2024 residents in fall 2023. Residents will be welcome from February 2024. The length of the residency period is regularly around one month. We are also able to offer a small stipend to each resident. The residency period should involve or culminate with a public event of some kind: exhibition, lecture, open studio, opening of an installation or something similar.
Residents are encouraged to use the building of VARES as a research object and environment to develop during the residency, but also to engage with the urban and rural spaces and communities in and around Valga.
In short, we welcome:
→ both practitioners and theorists
→ people working both individually as well as collectively
→ especially people from the Baltic and Nordic regions, but also elsewhere in the world
→ also professional collectives who wish to use the space for a conference or workshop of their own
In addition to the regular residency programme, which will involve a number of public events, VARES will be hosting winter and summer schools and university courses for spatial design students.
In 2024, we will also organise a thematic intensive residency entitled “Sketchy materials wasteland” for a group of different residents. A separate open call is organised for this.
VARES is part of the main programme of Tartu 2024 “Arts of Survival” European Capital of Culture.
Q: What are the accommodation and living conditions at VARES like?
A: VARES has a functioning kitchen and washing facilities, one properly furnished bedroom and resources for a larger number of sleeping places, including for babies and children.
The residency is located at Uus 35 in Valga. There are many shops and food establishments nearby. The building is 5 minutes by foot from the Valga town centre. The residency offers a couple of bikes as means of transport around the town and additional engine assistance can be arranged (vans, cars etc.).
The building has two floors with seven rooms on each of them. The whole house is heated with stoves, which is something the resident will have to engage with also themself (at least partly). During colder seasons, the house is going to shrink, meaning we will only use the rooms which we can keep warm.
There is no one permanently staying at VARES, and we also don’t have a specialised house manager. Anyone staying at VARES should allocate at least an hour of their day to care for the household, since domesticating it is the collective handwork of all of us.
Q: Why make an architecture residency in Valga? How do I get there?
A: A part of our team was co-organising the large international alternative architecture education summer school EASA Apathy in 2020. In 2023, thanks to the Valga municipality’s architect Jiri Tintera and the South Estonian programme of Tartu 2024 Capital of Culture, we got the opportunity to establish a spatial arts residency into an old schoolhouse previously inhabited by Valga Distance Learning High School.
Valga is the southernmost town of Estonia with 12 000 inhabitants, located on the border – just 400 meters from VARES, you can step into the Latvian town of Valka and wander around the exciting contemporary twin city urban space created in the past few years. On the one hand, Valga is a typical Eastern European industrial town with a decreasing population, where many abandoned and decaying structures are awaiting their fate. On the other hand, the multinational, human-scale, self-initiated atmosphere of Valga makes for an inspiring context to experiment with the urgent topics of today – degrowth, recycling and survival skills.
Founder of VARES
Margus is a freelance architect based in Estonia. He graduated from the department of architecture and urban planning at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) in 2021, experimenting with spatial education for middle, high and university students throughout the years. Most of his projects are also involved with educational and creative spaces, either as an artist or curator at various biennials or through the self-initiated garage gallery Garaaž49. As a spatial creator, Margus is passionate about everything we create with our hands, sense with our bodies and experience through events, practising it under the initiative Hands Doing Things.
Founder of VARES
Ulla is an architect and spatial artist working in Estonia and Georgia. She is one of the founder of the GRBGKDS (Garbage Kids) collective in Tbilisi, that focuses on carpentry, collectable furniture and restoration. She has been a freelance lecturer and tutor since 2018 at EKA and runs workshops both in Estonia and abroad. Her current creative work concentrates on handy activities and material experimentation, playing with dust, wood and other leftover materials.
Founder of VARES
Founder of VARES
Founder of VARES
Graphic designer of VARES
Maria is a freelance graphic designer who mainly practices in the Estonian cultural sphere and researches local print design histories. In creating visual materials for VARES, she investigates methods of using non-digital graphic design tools, heritage technologies and available physical materials for contemporary visual communication outputs.
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VARES Valga Architecture Residency
Uus 35, 68203, Valga, Estonia
NGO Estonian Association of Young Architecture
Registry code: 80131176
IBAN: EE627700771002664511 AS LHV Pank BIC/SWIFT: LHVBEE22
Address: Estonia, Tallinn, Trummi 4-26, 12616