top of page

Guggenheim Museum

Competition 2014   Helsinki Finland

The new Guggenheim Museum is meant to engage its visitors with regional art and to cultivate new ways of seeing and understanding Scandinavia. Located atop a raised stone terrace, the small village of galleries and services takes its place among the historic urban cityscape fronting the harbor while at the same time extending Helsinki’s greenscape from observatory hill across Laivasillankatu. Public spaces created along the North and South side of the museum establish new urban spaces for visitors and locals to enjoy South Harbor.


Three floors of museum galleries, veiled in a white diaphanous scrim, are held up above the west bank of Etelasatama as if presented to the city. Shouldering this mass is a tactile base of white washed clad cross laminated timber shear panels undulating around heavy timber columns. The panels which fluctuate between fixed and operable, open up to reveal the Annex facing the North Terrace and a flexible auditorium/ meeting space at the South Terrace. The formal language of the museum is part abstract, part modernism and part utilitarian machine echoing the working ports history. 


The new museum, arranged around a central atrium space, is laid out on a 9 meter grid of heavy timber post and beams. The grid is derived from the potential spans for wood, Finland’s abundant natural resource, and the smallest devisable gallery size. This measure becomes the common rhythm or cadence that extends into the adjacent terrace building and out to the forecourt, a grove of silver birch trees at the foot of the new museum terrace. The galleries were developed as tall, light filled neutral spaces acting as a backdrop for artist and curators to showcase installations with potential views overlooking the city. 


Juxtaposed to the museum is all of the program services that support and maintain the day to day operations of the Guggenheim. Seen as an extension of the stone terrace, the dark brick mass rises up like the exposed bedrock nearby, to shelter the museum from visual and audible ‘noise’ along Laivasillankatu and the adjacent ferry route. Intensive greenscapes adorning the rooftops appear as displaced fields from Finland’s country side with tall fescue and wild flowers moving gently with the breeze coming off the harbor. 


Dividing the terrace building into public vs museum operations is a large internal rain garden that reveals itself at the atrium of the art museum and bookends the views out across Etelasatama. To the North of the garden is the museums restaurant, kitchen, cafe/ bar, museum and design stores, as well as the classroom laboratory which reach out to define the North terrace and main museum entry. South of the rain garden and tucked behind a tall brick wall is the the vertical circulation leading to the museum office on level 1 as well as the shipping/ receiving, staging, art storage, central mechanical plant, service yard and employee entrance. Museum offices at level 1 share an abundance of natural light and ventilation, with access to rooftop gardens and views out to the historic city center and the working harbor. 

bottom of page