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Rival contest opens in Helsinki as official Guggenheim submissions close

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An international ideas competition has been launched seeking ‘bold and thoughtful’ alternatives to building a new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki

Backed by independent arts organisations, the ‘Next Helsinki’ contest has been launched the day entries to the much-publicised official Guggenheim design contest closed.

Open to architects, urbanists, students and ‘all others who love cities’, the new competition seeks rival ideas for the museum’s South Harbour site that would ‘more fully meet the city’s cultural, spatial, and sustainability needs.’

According to the competition announcement: ‘Following the success of the Guggenheim Bilbao in transforming that region’s tourist economy, many city managers have been seduced by the fantasy that a high-concept museum, designed by a starchitect, will turn around its urban fortunes in a similar way.’

It continued: ‘Advocates of this branding formula see Helsinki as an ideal candidate for a new Guggenheim franchise. Yet the proposal has generated a surprisingly heated public debate among Finland’s citizenry, with pro and anti-Guggenheim sentiment running high.  

‘The Next Helsinki competition aims to elevate the debate by giving voice to bold and thoughtful alternatives.’

Competition jury chair Michael Sorkin added: ‘The city is the greatest collective work of art ever conceived, and Helsinki is one of the most exquisite.

‘[In contrast to the] anachronistic vessel of the traditional museum building the goal of the competition is to attract projects that attach artistry to all aspects of everyday urbanism.’ 

Malcolm Reading Consultants launched a contest for the museum in June after the city’s governing board earmarked a waterfront plot for the project - despite previous opposition to the scheme.

An earlier proposal for the museum was shelved by the same board in 2012 amid concerns over the project’s cost. A poll of city residents found 75 per cent opposed the scheme.

The Guggenheim Foundation subsequently put forward a second proposal featuring a ten per cent reduction in operating and administrative costs which was approved by the city board in January.

Entries to the anonymous first stage of the Guggenheim contest close today. Six shortlisted teams will be announced in November and given until March 2015 to work up designs.

The winner – set to be announced in June 2015 – will take home £80,000 and five runner-ups will receive £45,000 each.

The deadline for entries to the Next Helsinki contest is 2 March.






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