Following a detailed “Concept and Development Study” realized by the Guggenheim Foundation, the City of Helsinki reserved a prominent waterfront site for the future location of this prestigious museum. The architectural competition that was launched soon after broke the world record, with an astonishing number of entries.
It is envisaged that the Guggenheim Helsinki would organize and present internationally significant exhibitions of artworks from the twentieth and twenty-first century, while also specializing in Nordic art and architecture.
The site is located in the Eteläsatama, or South Harbor area, an urban space of great national and cultural significance, close to the historic city center and immediately visible to visitors arriving by sea.
When we started drawing the first sketches, the focus was to find connections, without forgetting the most important connection of all: that of the building itself to its site. Regardless of its self-contained character, the presence of a new piece of architecture will inevitably create a new landscape, so we focused on the necessity of discovering the architecture which the site itself is seeking while becoming a symbol for the city.
We tried to create for a building that could provide shelter for the imagination and that could nourish the subconscious and accommodate everyday life. We imagined a structure that casts shadows but which exerts little physical presence within the frame of the city.
Another key aspect was to obtain a space for education that encourages the learning process for all audiences. The whole building is multifunctional in order to sustain a variety of uses in which everyone can participate.
The project is taking on the complex challenge of avoiding pedestrian barriers. The canopy provides a dramatic effect while protecting the sloped public square. This provides a powerful public area that resembles an open-air amphitheatre. The visitors have a choice between exploring the inside or the outside of the building. On the exterior, a pedestrian “belt” surrounds the main unit, inviting guests on an ascending walk on the facade. The public space is extended on an accessible rooftop that includes restaurants and a public garden where the visitors can continue walking while enjoying a panoramic view of the surroundings.
The aim is to make the people an active part in the life of the building, by exploring it, by being seen, by simply coming together for a stroll while admiring the beautiful outdoors and the exhibits.
The complex is similar to an urban scheme: a collection of buildings designed to function just like a city would, following the division between the public, exterior space and the semi-public interior one, by using variations in scale, texture, color and material.
The scheme is based upon a series of units, in which the in-between areas generate the shape of the building and form a network of “streets”.