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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is internationally recognized for its critically acclaimed exhibitions and architectural achievement in museum buildings.

Above: Waterfront view of competition site from the Market Square, looking south.
Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

In 2010 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was invited by the City of Helsinki to undertake a detailed concept and development study exploring the possibility of a Guggenheim museum in the Finnish capital. Conducted during 2011, presented in 2012, and revised in 2013, the study proposed an innovative, multidisciplinary museum of art and design, thoughtfully integrated in a prominent site on Helsinki’s South Harbor, which was reserved by the City of Helsinki in January of 2014 for an architectural competition to design the proposed museum.

The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition was the first open, international architectural competition to be organized by the Guggenheim Foundation. This initiative reflected the Guggenheim’s long history of engagement with architecture and design and its belief that outstanding original design can speak across cultures, refreshing and enlivening the urban environment.

The proposed Guggenheim Helsinki would organize and present internationally significant exhibitions of artworks from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries while also specializing in Nordic art and architecture. Within the Guggenheim Foundation’s international constellation of museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Helsinki would have been distinctive in its active inclusion of design and architecture in its programming.

Competition Process

The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition was organized in two stages. Stage One was an open call for participation by qualified architects—either individuals or teams—from anywhere in the world. Competitors were asked to prepare a design submission, which was evaluated on five key criteria: cityscape, architecture, usability, sustainability, and feasibility. 

From the record-breaking 1,715 Stage One entries, the jury selected six proposals to advance to Stage Two of the competition. These finalists were given further detailed material and were invited to a three-day briefing in Helsinki. They were then asked to expand on their Stage One design and produce a master plan model.

The Stage Two submissions were presented during Guggenheim Helsinki Now, a public exhibition held at the Kunsthalle Helsinki from April 25 through May 16, 2015. Following the close of the exhibition, the jury met in Helsinki to name a proposal by Moreau Kusunoki Architectes, a Paris-based firm, the successful design. As the winner, Moreau Kusunoki was awarded €100,000; the five runners-up each received €55,000.

The competition ran for approximately one year from its launch on June 4, 2014 to the announcement of the winner on June 23, 2015.

The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition was funded entirely from private sources and was organized by the Guggenheim in association with the City of Helsinki, the State of Finland, the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA), and London-based Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC). 

Competition Brief

Key elements of the Stage One brief were as follows. To see the full brief, go to Competition Conditions.

  • Outstanding, engaging, original design

  • Potential to become a landmark and a symbol of Helsinki

  • Sensitivity to historic waterfront setting

  • Sustainable placemaking from an economic, social, and environmental perspective

  • Strong connections to the historic city center, harbor, and urban context, which are evident and enjoyable in all seasons

  • A design informed by Nordic ideals, including openness and accessibility

The Guggenheim Helsinki proposal detailed an innovative, multidisciplinary museum of art and design. It called for a design of the highest architectural quality and envisioned a museum that created a meaningful presence in Helsinki and offered civic space where both residents and visitors could gather.

The building’s total anticipated building-related project cost was estimated at €130M, excluding taxes, and the total site area was approximately 18,520 square meters. The total floor area designated for the museum building was approximately 12,100 square meters, of which approximately 4,000 square meters would have been exhibition spaces. All areas of the museum were to be conceived in terms of how they could support social interaction and the experience of art.

The museum building was planned to include galleries, a flexible performance hall, educational space, a large cafe/bar, a smaller formal restaurant, administrative offices, practitioner spaces, collections storage, a retail store, and other facilities. Outdoor spaces for the display of sculpture and projects were also proposed.

Finland leads the world in sustainable bioeconomy, and therefore, competition participants were encouraged to creatively use Finnish wood, one of the country’s greatest resources. Additionally, the Competition Conditions called for designs incorporating the latest digital technology.

Conclusion

Following the conclusion of the architectural competition and further dialogue among Finnish stakeholders, an updated funding model for the proposed museum was presented in November 2016; as with previous models, the revised proposal included a combination of public and private funding. On November 30, 2016, the Helsinki City Council voted against advancing the Guggenheim Helsinki project.

While there are no further plans to develop a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki, the Guggenheim Foundation continues to pursue cultural dialogue and exchange around the world through its existing network of museums and international collaborations, curatorial residencies, commissioning programs, shared collections, and other activities. For more information about the history and evolution of the Guggenheim Helsinki project, view the Competition Conditions.