Stage One Jury Statement

The 11-member competition jury met in Helsinki over four days in November 2014 to review the Stage One submissions. Learn more about how they determined the six finalists.

Above: Jeanne Gang, Nancy Spector, Mikko Aho, Helena Säteri, Juan Herreros, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Anssi Lassila, Ritva Viljanen, Mark Wigley (Chair), Erkki Leppävuori, Rainer Mahlamäki.
Photo: Riitta Supperi


The Jury received early remote electronic access to all 1,715 sets of design boards and concept descriptions on October 15, 2014 via a password-protected FTP site. A preliminary sift had been made by an Advisory Panel according to compliance with the Essential Criteria: cityscape, architecture, and usability described in the Competition Conditions. Entries were separated into two groups: firstly, yellow (possible) and green (yes), and secondly, red (no); the latter being quarantined. The submissions were anonymous and only identified by their competition number.

The Jury met together in Helsinki from Thursday, October 30 through to Monday, November 3 at Tamminiementie 6 in Meilahti, the former headquarters of the City Art Museum. Jurors made several visits to the proposed museum site. The Jury Chair, Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University emphasized that the Jury should look for schemes which extended or exceeded the Brief in positive ways. The Jurors’ goal was to identify the proposals that showed the most promise in developing into outstanding designs during the second phase of the competition.

Selecting the Longlist

The Jury worked in pairs to review random groupings of submissions, studying the boards, to reconfirm or reassess their initial findings in online analysis. Sets of submissions were drawn out during this process and set aside for subsequent review. All discarded selections were moderated by at least two separate pairs of jurors.

The Jury put aside those schemes which they felt did not meet the Brief, or in meeting the Brief, demonstrated key concerns:

  • Little or no sensitivity to the site and its context, both within and outside of the site boundary.
  • No account of practical building regulations, (for example a number of proposals exceeded specified height and footprint without offering any additional value that would provoke a revision of those regulations).
  • Little consideration to the site masterplan (no thought to access and loading to museum and adjacent operational port).
  • Derivative of other Guggenheim museums, or other major museums.
  • Poor reflection of how the gallery spaces might function, of flexibility, for instance.
  • Poor reflection on how the public would interact with the building.
  • Unconvincing landscape solutions, (for example relying on planting which would not thrive in the Finnish climate, spaces that would be largely uninhabitable in winter, etc.)
  • Weak basic design in terms of materials, spaces, circulation, structure, and so on.

There was a thorough examination of the submissions that had been quarantined (red-lighted) by the Advisory Panel, with some retrieved and reconsidered. Jurors worked individually, in pairs or in small groups to make selections of specific submissions for subsequent review by the whole Jury. Jurors were encouraged to keep any scheme in consideration which was intriguing or interesting in any way while meeting the Essential Criteria, and again a number of schemes originally red-lighted were pulled into the pool for consideration. In this way the longlist was drawn up.

Selecting the Shortlist

The Jury separated into two groups of five. Each group individually reviewed one half of the remaining submissions, to further filter.

Discussion during this review centered on:

  • Urban scale/overall organizational concept
  • Connections to civic/city spaces and planes
  • Quality and character of light
  • Internal arrangement and operational (programming) of museum space (display of objects/media)
  • Materials/qualities/selection (appropriate versus inappropriate use of wood)
  • Response to weather/climatic environment/technology
  • Intrinsic flair, insight or design charisma

The Chair encouraged the Jury to question the concept behind each submission and consider what it contributed to the understanding of ‘the museum’ today.

At this stage submissions were separated into sets for subsequent analysis. The two groups swapped submissions to moderate each other’s work. The Chair emphasized that the competition needed to identify new ideas and redefine the idea of a museum while engaging in the social and physical fabric of the city. Many schemes reflected a common ‘formula’ rather than pushing the boundaries of the Brief. The Jury now moved to reviewing using a notional ranking of 1- 5. After many grueling and intensive reviews, the re-evaluation of some earlier rejected schemes and a further visit to the site, six schemes with the best scores emerged and were approved by all eleven Jurors.


Despite the sheer volume of proposals – a credit to the global architectural community and a great compliment to both Helsinki and the Guggenheim Foundation – the Jury remained focused. It recognized that the Brief was complex and the site was extremely challenging in terms of technical demands and resolution of urban issues.

The final shortlist encompasses a number of different scenarios: from schemes which are more experimental in engaging with the program and whose outward form will only emerge in the second phase, to ones that might seem more resolved from the outside but whose programmatic concept will only evolve fully in the second phase.

The single theme, which linked the chosen six, and united the Jury, was the impulse to expand the idea of what a museum can be. How can this new museum create a vital, meaningful, public and intellectual presence within Helsinki? Which of these concepts will develop so that they bear comparison with the city’s architectural exemplars? The Jury looks forward to the second stage of the competition and choosing a winner in early summer 2015.

Jury Decision

The six finalists for the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition, in number order are:

GH-04380895; GH-1128435973; GH-121371443; GH-5059206475; GH-5631681770; GH-76091181.

The Jury also noted schemes for inclusion in the competition’s exhibition – details of these to be released in the spring.

Note: While the shortlisted teams’ names will be published separately by the Guggenheim Foundation, under EU procurement rules the concepts must remain anonymous until the competition concludes.

Summary of Jury Findings on the Finalist Schemes

The Jury felt this was a unique proposal, with a grouping of pavilions creating a continuation of the city. The scheme blended well into the city fabric, reflecting the market close by. The use of natural daylight deep into the plan was praised. However, the Jury was skeptical about the design of the roof scape. The tower-lighthouse created debate amongst the Jury, with concerns over the placement and size of the galleries, nevertheless the Jury felt the overall concept has great potential to redefine the museum as a more urban experience.
The Jury praised the industrial vernacular of the design, with its internal flexibility and external effect. This was felt to be a very compelling response to the Guggenheim principles for the new museum even if it was not fully developed yet. There was a very strong organizing concept with public/incubator on the ground floor and exhibition above. The low form yet pronounced silhouette was considered particularly interesting.
The Jury praised the integration of image and technology, and called the design simple but extraordinary. Jurors thought the scheme had such a density of visual impact that it would draw a nickname from the public but also needs to develop an equally compelling internal logic as the internal program is still too diagrammatic. The proposal used the aesthetic of the building as a sustainable energy device. There were some potential concerns raised over construction risks.
This proposal responded well to the cityscape and the site, using the materials from the existing buildings and creating close relationships with its surroundings. The architecture is based on an evolving ecology of materials, forms and atmospheres. The scheme was based on an old store house, which was felt to be a subtle concept with a great deal of potential both for the museum and for the urban and social fabric.
This scheme demonstrated a good understanding of how the city works and the proposal presented valuable research demonstrating a new direction for the museum internally and in relation to the urban fabric. There is particular attention to public space and the potential exhibition spaces were considered authentic. The Jury acknowledged the scheme was at an early, conceptual phase, but its non-stereotypical approach was seen to open up a particularly promising future for the project on the site.
The Jury praised the basic concept behind the proposal. The use of timber seemed especially elegant and the internal courtyard could be memorable with circuits of independent galleries. The use of nine lifts was especially questioned by the Jury but it was felt that the gallery ‘rooms’ could work well if the horizontal and vertical circulation scheme could be developed both in terms of efficiency and complexity of visitor experience.

This statement approved by the GHDC Jury Chair, November 2014