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Funding blow for Guggenheim Helsinki proposal

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Finland’s populist party has blocked funding for Moreau Kusunoki Architects’ Guggenheim museum, planned for Helskinki’s waterfront

The Paris-based practice won a competition last year to design the £110 million project, seeing off a shortlist that included the UK’s Asif Khan. Advocates of the scheme claim it could generate around £36 million a year for the local economy and deliver 500 new jobs.

However, the Finns Party, part of the country’s governing coalition, has thrown a spanner in the works by blocking government support for the project.

Sampo Terho, parliamentary head of the Finns Party, told Reuters: ‘This is the end of the matter, we have ruled out state funding [for Guggenheim] once and for all, for this government.

‘We are not opposed to the project as such; we just don’t think it is something that the state should participate in.’

The original deal to build the museum would have seen the government cover construction plus a share of the running costs. In return, the Guggenheim Foundation agreed to send major exhibitions to the facility.

Last year an investigation by the Helsinki Times revealed a lack of city-level support for the scheme. Just six of the Finnish capital’s 69 councillors contacted by the newpaper said they agreed to it being mostly paid for from the public purse and that they would approve the scheme. 

But a spokeswoman for the museum told the AJ it was still hopeful that the project could continue.

‘Guggenheim Helsinki would be a long-term cultural and economic investment in Helsinki and in Finland, so we are disappointed that the state government has not yet made a decision to invest in the construction of the proposed museum,’ she said.

‘As we have seen in statements of support for Guggenheim Helsinki by cultural and business leaders in Finland, and based on our conversations with local stakeholders, we believe there is a broad support for the project despite this recent development.

‘We are working with our colleagues in Finland to determine the next steps for advancing the project.’

The original design competition, organised by the museum along with Malcolm Reading Consultants, attracted 1,715 submissions from nearly 80 countries.

Catherine Reading, director at Malcolm Reading Consultants, said: ‘We were in Helsinki recently and couldn’t resist pacing the site. It is a great project and deserves to be supported.’

Moreau Kusunoki Architects’ winning scheme, dubbed Art in the City, features nine ‘low-lying’ pavilions and a lighthouse-like tower clad in charred timber.

The jury praised the proposals as ‘deeply respectful of the site’ and a ‘fragmented, non-hierarchical, horizontal campus of linked pavilions, where art and society could meet and inter-mingle’.


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