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VARES Open Call 2024

Residency period: 1-2 months during February - December 2024. Applications open until November 20, 2023.

Valga Architecture Residency poster.
10. Nov

VARES is a self-initiated interdisciplinary residency for spatial practice located in Valga, Estonia. The focus is on unhurried architecture practice, material repurposing, spatial experimentation and research. 

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. 

Who are we looking for?

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.


VARES (Valga Architecture Residency) is a newly formed international multidisciplinary residency for spatial practice. We are interested in slow paced architecture, critically rethinking the discipline of spatial creation, preserving vernacular crafts and repurposing used materials.

Situated on the border of Estonia and Latvia, the residency has made its nest in an old school from the 1930s, a two storey building that will slowly be transformed into a house museum, a collection of experiments, spatial interventions and ideas left behind by the residents living there.

During summer 2023, we worked with volunteers to refurbish the academic building to become a more homely setting. The residency has comfortable spaces for living, yet the building itself is left raw and open for the residing artists to work on and in. 

The town of Valga is home to approximately 12 000 people and is currently, like many small towns, shrinking. With the change in population, a lot of spaces and buildings have remained empty for decades. The residency is a spatial experiment, where the town itself can become the source of materials for the artists. 

VARES Architecture Residency is a part of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 main programme.

Practical info

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.).

Conditions for applying

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 (max 25 MB)

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 protected]

The choice of residence 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.


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