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Guggenheim Helsinki scrapped after city councillors refuse funding


Helsinki city councillors have torpedoed plans for a £110 million Guggenheim Museum in the Finnish capital

The contentious project was rejected after councillors voted 53 to 32 against partially funding the landmark project at the end of a mammoth five-hour debate which concluded early this morning.

Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation director Richard Armstrong told the Helsinki Times: ‘We are disappointed that the Helsinki City Council has decided not to allocate funds for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki museum, in effect bringing this project to a close.’

This decision brings this project to a close

The foundation’s deputy director, Ari Wiseman, also confirmed that no further alternative funding options would be put forward, ending a five-year struggle to get the museum project off the ground.

The veto came shortly after the Helsinki City Board, the council’s executive body responsible for projects, voted eight to seven in favour of proceeding with the scheme, proposed for a prominent site in the city’s South Harbour, although it had already lost the financial support of the Finnish government.

Earlier this month Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa told the AJ the museum was a ‘ruthless business presented as a cultural project’ and demanded its public funding be spent more innovatively and efficiently to support Finnish artistic culture.

Pallasmaa’s remarks came as Finnish MP and architect Anders Adlercreutz and architectural critic Jonathan Glancey both called for a second museum contest, calling the chosen scheme the ‘wrong building for the wrong site’.

The competition to design the gallery was won last year by Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki Architects, which topped a shortlist including the UK’s Asif Khan. The contest, organised by Malcom Reading Consultants, attracted 1,715 submissions from nearly 80 countries.


Malcolm Reading, chair of Malcolm Reading Consultants

’2016 has turned out to be a year of extraordinary events and turmoil and perhaps the final vote should be seen from this perspective.

’The proposition for a Guggenheim in Helsinki captured the imagination of the global architectural community and the competition was a phenomenon in its own right.

’One of the most entered design contests in history with entries from 77 countries, it recorded a moment in the architectural zeitgeist.

’The website is a fantastic resource for architects and architectural enthusiasts and it has recorded just short of 4.5 million page views.

’We feel for the competitors and finalists but nothing is entirely lost. The intensity of designing to such a compelling brief generates ideas and viewpoints that continue to be explored in subsequent work.’ 

Moreau Kusunoki Architects

Guggenheim Helsinki was an extraordinary adventure despite the disappointing result of the vote from the City Council of Helsinki.

The reflections we had in conceiving the 21th-century museum in Helsinki were thought-provoking and revelatory, such as the participatory and social dimensions of the museum, the studies on in-between spaces and flexible use, and the use of charred-wood cladding.

This journey was also an opportunity to meet exceptional professionals, whose commitment to promoting art and architecture we deeply admire.

We are confident that this project represents a stepping stone and the possibility of an exciting future for our firm and for the field of architecture. It encourages new thoughts towards competitions, including openness and transparency, for an upcoming generation of architects.

The record number of participants in the competition and the high degree of international media interest towards the process demonstrate how people, despite the vicissitudes of life and economic difficulties, continue to find art and culture essential to life.


Readers' comments (5)

  • All that effort from all those people, what a shame.

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  • You would have thought these issues were resolved prior to launching the competition.
    1750 enteries and in the end nothing but wasted time, what a shame.

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  • Cynical view is that all competitions are purely marketing exercises - for the designer city and client. Nobody will guarantee it will be built in advance and so the higher the profile and cost the greater the risk.

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  • What an appalling waste of time and money

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  • Yes a shame people went to all that effort but when something isn't gonna work for whatever reason, it ought to be stopped. The bigger shame would be to plough on ref: sunk cost fallacy. Let's hope London's Garden Bridge follows suit.

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