The design aims to function as a translator between the urban condition, the public, and the museum spaces. The existing urban edges of the city context define a triangular building mass. Lifting the main exhibition space allows the public and the museum programme to float freely underneath, creating a continuous connection between the urban fabric and water. A 24-metre-high atrium in the raised exhibition space generates a T-shaped hybrid space, combining the qualities of a horizontal exhibition space with those of a vertical one and making three-dimensional displays possible.
The grid structure (in Finnish wood) shapes diverse spaces – galleries, atrium-like spaces and informal exhibition spaces beyond the physical confines of the building. The design serves as a symbol for a dynamic 21st-century city by shifting the boundaries between open and closed, urban and art, and by creating new opportunities to display, link and create arts within the city.
The site for the new Guggenheim Museum Helsinki is located between a set of very distinct urban fabrics; a strong urban axis to the north, formed by Esplanadi Park and Market square, the boat heavy water surface of south harbour to the east, the active port functions of the Olympia Terminal to the south and the neoclassical urban grid of the city and the Tahititornin Vuori Park to the west. The proposed design for the new museum should function as translator and transformer between these urban conditions, the public and the museums interior and exterior spaces.
To achieve this, we propose to place the main building mass in a triangle defined by the various urban conditions around; by 1) maintaining the visual connections from the city through Bernhardsgatan and Etelaeinen Makasiinikatu towards the harbour, thus respecting the neoclassical grid of the city, by 2) connecting the main urban axis to the north with the city and the Tahititornin Vuori Park to the south west, forming a loop with the inner city and revitalizing the urban areas to the west, and 3) through conserving and emphasising the strong edge between land and water, harbour and boat. These defined urban edges frame a triangular field approximately the size of the requested exhibition space with no north facing edge.
By lifting the main exhibition space volume, it links itself to the upper edge of the neoclassical city grid while allowing public and program to float freely underneath, linking the different urban spaces and creating a continues connection beneath the building between the divers harbour functions, binding together city, leisure, art and serious harbour activities. By adding a vertical 24 m high atrium to the lifted exhibition space, a T-shaped hybrid space emerges, combining the qualities of a generic horizontal exhibition space, unidirectional flexibility in two dimensions, with those of a vertical exhibition space; exhibitions in three dimensions. The atrium ground will also function as a multi-use space that can be opened to the urban landscape around, enabling the combination of art and performance events, within and outside of the building.
The main building structure is based on a 4 m unidirectional grid made of Finnish wood, creating diverse spaces, individual galleries, atrium like spaces and informal exhibition spaces beyond the physical confines of the building. The exhibitions halls, horizontal and vertical, are ordered on a 20 m grid, allowing for flexible exhibitions and controlled divisions and uses of the space. The vertical exhibition hall has a structural height of 8 meters. This combination of different resolution grids, allows for a modular flexibility within the buildings boundaries and beyond, resulting in an active inclusion of design and architecture in the buildings programming, not just as a formal closed expression but as an open structure with endless possibilities.
The landscape is stretched out like a carpet, a continuation of the harbour strip under the floating museum building, allowing for different activities while connecting the city to its harbour function to the south. The south end of the site is occupied by a new ferry terminal, wrapped under the landscape layer. The different program spaces are wrapped as a loop, gradually ranging from informal (multi-use space, shop and restaurant) to formal (exhibition and events) around the central atrium. The visitors centre is position just at the interface of these two zones, allowing access to all side function while controlling the access to the exhibition and event spaces. The roof of the building is partly occupied by offices and a formal restaurant.
The main access and circulation of the building is spiralling around the vertical exhibition space/ atrium, allowing the visitor to experience the gradual transformation from an informal urban landscape beneath the building to the formal rigid spaces of the exhibition space. While travelling up into the building, people will see and experience the surrounding urban and art space from different angles, interweaving the two into a new whole.
Our design for the new Guggenheim museum in Helsinki would serve as an exemplary museum of the twenty-first century and a symbol of the dynamic city of Helsinki by shifting the boundaries between open and closed space, between urban and art, creating new opportunities how to display, link and create arts within the city. The design will exert a powerful influence over its context, providing social and urban regeneration in the area and articulating the link between the established city and the historic docks.Architect: SPARK architects
Project Director: Jan Felix Clostermann
Team: Dominic Black, Elaine Kwong, Carmen Sanchez, Sebastian Loaiza, Bin Li
Client: Competition entry – The Guggenheim Helsinki