Guggenheim Museum

Our proposal for the Guggenheim museum in Helsinki is an act of love: love of beauty, love for losing ourselves in it. A Contemporary Art museum is no longer a building of consumption by an elite sector of the public. It is now a far more complex public edifice, where it plays an important role in the revitalization of an urban center.

This new museum offers a floating bridge, an essential path, for turning beauty into a basic requirement of life, as someone once wrote about the vision of the late Walter Gropius. It can reach out beyond its immediate geographical borders; it can span cultural divides. Most importantly, it is an invitation to rise to the occasion and surprises of contemporary art, and ultimately to lose oneself to it in good company, both of building and fellow travelers in Helsinki.

The Guggenheim Museum is organized into a series of curved planes. First, a large urban plaza strip is formed from the north, allowing the urban connection on the waterfront to connect with the Market square and the landmark Market Hall. This urban plaza is stretched and gently lifted up, as it moves to the south of the site. A vantage point, towards the port, suddenly yields a stunning line of sight opening to the Senate square and the Helsinki Cathedral. The elevation provides an otherwise unavailable connection with the park to the west, creating not only a unique building that has presence on the waterfront, but an experiential extension of the urban park.

Secondly, the exhibition gallery is placed at the highest level, offering an unprecedented panoramic experience of the city, the harbor and its deep horizon line in the distance. The Museum’s important functional spaces are coherently organized to frame from below this elevated urban gesture. The blackbox theatre and the multipurpose hall anchor the Museum, like opposite poles, creating a field of energy sculpting the undercroft undulation. The sensual curves evoke a sense of voyage, the emotions of a space, and the beauty of subtle and fleeting but long-felt emotional perspectives. It draws upward from the emotional response of the public that arrives upon the elevated plaza. The principal materials directly join with the Finnish homeland, its culture and heritage of arts and craft. The Museum is thus vaulted from beneath as floating, an act of desire rising from the local urban plaza.

In stunning visual effect, the plaza reveals itself to be a covered outdoor space, framing the Helsinki urban vistas. Floating above the plaza, the rooftop exhibition space is landscaped with vegetation and usable deck for the public to enjoy with a high-end restaurant placed under the only surface undulation at this level. From the heart of the city to this swerve of rooftop public space, elevating contemporary art and its unexpected futures, this new Guggenheim museum of Helsinki is destined to become a true international public destination point for acts of love, beauty, culture, and life.

Helsinki, Finland
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Site Area:
18,687 sqm
12,970 sqm