The Guggenheim announced the finalists of its Helsinki museum design competition Tuesday morning, narrowing the unprecedented 1,715 competitors to the following six firms:
- AGPS Architecture Ltd. (Zurich, Switzerland and Los Angeles, United States of America)
- Asif Khan Ltd. (London, United Kingdom)
- Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (Cristina Goberna, Urtzi Grau), Jorge Lopez Conde, Carmen Blanco, Alvaro Carrillo (New York, United States of America; Barcelona, Spain; and Sydney, Australia)
- Haas Cook Zemmrich STUDIO2050 (Stuttgart, Germany)
- Moreau Kusunoki Architect (Paris, France)
- SMAR Architecture Studio (Madrid, Spain and Western Australia)
In accordance with European Union laws, the museum will not identify which teams are responsible for which designs until the final winner is announced in June. What we can tell so far is that none of these firms are exceptionally well known.
“What really gives me hope is that there isn’t an architect up there that you know by first name only,” newly appointed Guggenheim architecture and digital initiatives curator Troy Conrad Therrien told Architizer, also reminding us that Frank Gehry wasn’t just “Frank” at the time he was commissioned to build the Guggenheim Bilbao in the ’90s. “He was still radical. The museum started with the idea of hiring one of the greatest architect of all time [Frank Lloyd Wright], then followed that with someone young and experimental. This jury didn’t go safe either; they found six seeds that have embedded within them the DNA of incredible buildings. Hopefully the museum and the city will eventually invest in them.”
Where the museum’s Gehry-designed Spanish outpost sparked an entire mythology of how a single building can be responsible for a city’s urban regeneration, Therrien has expressed the hope that this new museum will make broader statements about the architect’s role in creating public space and affecting climate change. The finalists “each have their own position,” on sustainability, according to Therrien, whether subtly in terms of the building's energy performance, or as “a major trope in their entire apparatus.”
The residual backlash of the so-called “Bilbao Effect,” however, still casts its shadow over the Guggenheim’s latest architectural project. The citizens behind “Next Helsinki” have expressed their opposition to hosting a showpiece of an American franchise. In what reads as an attempt at civic appeasement, the jury statement lists the criteria they used to rule out proposals: “little or no sensitivity to the site and its context,” “poor reflection of how the gallery spaces might function,” and “poor reflection on how the public would interact with the building,” all points of contention with Gehry’s Bilbao design. (Interestingly, “derivative of other Guggenheim museums” was also on that list.) These terms provide a welcome break from the current groundswell of starchitect-designed vanity art institutions in the works around the world.
As we await the final outcome of the competition, the shortlisted finalists will travel to Helsinki in January to examine the proposed museum site and submit models to the second round of adjudication in March. A public exhibition of the shortlisted designs, plus “a selection of honorable mentions” will take place in Helsinki in the spring. The six shortlisted proposals are below.
Features of note: a pedestrian footbridge that connects to Tähtitorninvuori Park; a charred timber facade symbolizing the regeneration of a forest after a fire; a tower ensemble “made to stand out from afar.”
Features of note: a central, cathedral-like gathering space surrounded by towers clad in timber shingles; great waterfront views from the towers' connecting bridges.
Features of note: two separate facilities, including a lower floor for public use, and an “exhibition hall on stilts” to emphasize “the notion of a museum as a space apart.”
Features of note: a skin of textured glass panels; energy-efficient Nanogel glazing and rollable thermal shutters; a sculpture garden.
Features of note: a structural homage to Helsinki harbor’s Makasiini Terminal; a layered acclimatization scheme referred to as a “thermal onion.”
Features of note: a city street running through its interior, designed as a “critical shift from the idea of a building as static object to a building that accommodates the flux of daily life.”
Images courtesy Malcolm Reading Consultants.