The idea of constructing a special building for the art museum was conceived in the 1930s, and a few architectural contests were held. The project that won in 1936 was never realised as World War II broke out. After Estonia had regained its independence, the construction of the new main building for the Art Museum of Estonia was put back on the table. In 1993, an international architectural contest was organised, with architects from ten countries participating with a total of 233 projects. The winner of the contest was the design by the Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori. The construction began in 2002 and the completed museum opened its doors to the public on 18 February 2006.
The architect Pekka Vapaavuori’s winning design Circulos is a circular building with a large and lofty atrium. The architectural form of Kumu is ageless; the sphere and the curved line are linked to the eternal. The building’s exterior and interior are wonderfully balanced: buried in the limestone cliff of Lasnamägi, the large-scale building manages to harmoniously coexist with the cosiness of Kadriorg Park. The architect chose natural materials with local traditions, such as dolomite, wood and copper.