The great challenge designing the new Guggenheim Museum in a city like Helsinki is to address the concept of “topos”. Topos as a regional aspect of the collective memory and ethos of Finland and topos as a hub of universal cultural transcendence of an institution like Guggenheim.
The proposal responds to the location by interpreting the site as an in-between space of the dense city grid and the port and as a particle within the Nordic landscape and culture. At the same time the magnitude and importance of such museum offers an extraordinary experience to the visitor of Helsinki as well as proposing a new place of belonging for the residents of the city.
The proposal’s scope was formed through the reading of the city and its palimpsest. The building corresponds to three initial urban intentions:
1. To regenerate the urban block on the waterfront as the “missing piece” of the city grid. The building creates a sharp north edge. An inscribed urban public space derives on the waterfront. The link between the city and the sea shifts from a side condition to a direct relationship.
2. To bridge the cultural and green spaces of the city. A long green corridor completes the stroll from the Esplanadi through a succession of public spaces traversing the museum and finally ascending to Tahtitornin Park, the Observatory and the adjacent museums.
3. To retrieve the historic trace of the shore. A segment of reclaimed land is reciprocated back to a manmade nature. The building embraces a raised plateau permeated by tall birch trees and freestanding pillars. The east facing open space comprises an iconic experience of the Finnish forest.
The design of the building is based on dual relationships in different expressions and scales. The building volume celebrates the horizontality of the place against the vertical elements of the Finnish forest interpretation. It establishes its significant presence within the cityscape through the boldness of its mass while it contains a soft and curved wooden core. It is inscribed on rigid axes while implying an ambiguous edge between the manmade land and nature.
The Guggenheim Helsinki is a vehicle to revisit the city and a place to appreciate art of international acknowledgement through a sequence of events:
-A stroll from the Esplanadi through the green corridor.
-A dilemma at the museum threshold; a path towards the Finnish Forest or a ramp ascending.
-The buzz at the public functions in the structure between the ramp and the waterfront.
-A pause at the wooden outdoor room: a continuation of the city with interior qualities.
-Crossing the glass lobby. To the raised museum garden or get a ticket to the core of the museum.
-The ramp gallery, a tribute to the Guggenheim archetype.
-The main gallery space; an introvert space bathed in north light.
- Last. A treehouse. The Nordic window to observe the light. A moment to contemplate over the landscape.
City Center Plan
Exhibition and Services
Domés International Review of Architecture