The hotly contested plans to build a Guggenheim museum in the city of Helsinki were shot down this past Wednesday after a majority of Helsinki’s City Council members voted against moving forward with the project.
Opposition to the project came from all sides of the Finnish government, from members who were outraged by a proposal that would have necessitated approximately $85 million in funds from the city, with private donors contributing the rest to the $138 million museum.
The plans for a satellite Guggenheim on Helsinki’s waterfront had gained wide public interest and notoriety since its inception in 2011, when an open international design competition attracted 1,700 entrants. The bid was eventually awarded to Paris-based architecture firm Moreau Kusunoki in 2015, which proposed a complex of timber and glass pavilions with flexible gallery spaces.
While members of the government’s far-right, left and Social Democrat parties were delighted and relieved with the result of Wednesday’s decision, many of the project’s supporters were left deeply disappointed. “I suppose that it was a reaction to a sense of engulfing internationalism or a reaction against globalism,” said Richard Armstrong, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in New York in an interview with the New York Times.
Advocates of the project had hoped the new museum would raise the Finnish country’s cultural profile and revitalize tourism following the success of the 1997 Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. The Guggenheim Helsinki Supporting Foundation had raised $36 million in donations from private and corporate sponsors particularly from Finland’s hospitality and tourism businesses that had faith in the economic opportunities of such a cultural attraction.
The strain on public funding appeared the largest obstacle to the museum’s realization, but many protestors were also concerned about the commercial profile of the Guggenheim foundation and felt the precious waterfront site could be much more authentically utilized in other ways.
While it is uncertain as of yet if the plans for a Finnish Guggenheim will resurface, future plans for the development of Helsinki’s waterfront remain to be seen.