Estonia's renovated US embassy building reopens

Estonian Embassy in Washington.
Estonian Embassy in Washington. Source: Government Office / Jürgen Randma

Extensive three-year renovation work to the Estonian Embassy building in Washington is finally over, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal" (AK) reports.

The renovation cost around US$13 million and was marred by a serious flooding incident.

The building had been formally opened by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), in Washington last week forging political ties ahead of a potential NATO secretary general bid.

The 120-year-old embassy building itself, located on 2131 Massachusetts Ave NW, was renovated over a three-year period; ERR reports that efforts were made to make its completely overhauled interior design simple, with plenty of wood and glass utilized, enhanced by details in copper.

A total of seven art installations by Estonian artists are included.

Estonia's Ambassador to the U.S. Kristjan Prikk said that design considerations included making the embassy "future proof."

"So for the next 20 to 30 years, it will possibly be one of the embassies with the best solutions, offering the best working environment and the best technical backing of all, on the so-called 'embassy row' in Washington," Ambassador Prikk said.

Embassy Row is the informal name for a section of Northwest Washington, spanning  Massachusetts Avenue N.W. between 18th and 35th street, and bounded by Scott Circle to the south and the United States Naval Observatory to the north.

Other improvements include enhanced access for people with mobility issues, and boosted IT capacities.

The building had been through the wars in recent years: In 2001, fire broke out due to an electrical fault, while in August 2011 the facility was affected by the Richter Scale 5.8 Virginia earthquake

"When I looked into the building, across the threshold of the main door, it was five meters deep below me; men were working in helmets, while when I looked up, I saw just sky," Ambassador Prikk, at the time a defense adviser at the embassy, recalled of that episode.

Estonia's ambassador to the US Kristjan Prikk. Source: Ministry of Defense

Not only that, but during the renovation process, a serious flood the day after Thanksgiving 2022, and caused by the facility's fourth floor sprinkler system just as staff were due to move back into the building, necessitated a call-out of first responders.

The mishap meant practically going back to square one, with the dismantling of several walls, ceilings and floors required a top-to-bottom overhaul (see gallery below).

"Jokingly, I have sometimes said that the first time was practice, and the second time was a competition, and this competition turned out quite well," Kristijan Prikk added.

Embassy staff worked out of a small replacement area during much of the renovation period.

Built in 1903, the building was originally a personal residence used by a doctor, later becoming a school, and then a guest house. The property has belonged to the Estonian state since 1994.

The AK slot (in Estonian) from ERR's Washington correspondent Maria-Ann Rohemäe is below.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Maria-Ann Rohemäe.

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