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Helsinki Guggenheim contest: 100 snapshots of the 1,715 entries


The AJ can reveal 100 of the 1,715 designs submitted for the new Guggenheim museum in Helsinki

Every one of the Guggenheim submissions was published online this week, and a cross-section of the huge number of anonymous stage-one entries are showcased here.

The competition to mastermind the £100 million waterfront project officially became the most popular architectural contest in history last month, attracting more entries than the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza contest, won by Heneghan Peng, which drew 1,557 submissions.

Competition organiser Malcolm Reading confirmed there had been ‘a very significant number’ of UK submissions for the 12,000m² museum in the Finnish capital.

UK-based practices known to have entered include Lynch Architects, Grimshaw, Adam Khan Architects, Debbie Flevotomou Architects and Mossessian & Partners. Dublin-based Heneghan Peng also entered.

Practices from 77 countries entered the open contest, with considerable interest also coming from the United States, Italy, Finland, France, and Japan.

The 11-member jury, led by Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, will meet early next month to review all the entries and select a six-strong shortlist - to be announced on 2 December. Finalists will have until March 2015 to make final submissions.

The winner, who will receive £79,000, will be named in June 2015. Five runners-up will each take home £43,000.

Comment from competition organiser Malcolm Reading

It’s been a wonder to have received the largest response of any architectural competition. The Guggenheim Foundation could have just gone for the world’s top 100 practices. But it wanted the competition to be accessible to younger architects and creative partnerships. So we designed a new model for this competition to appeal to both emerging and established practices, integrating US, UK and Finnish competition approaches, as well as complying with EU procurement guidelines.

While the design contest is a popular method in mainland Europe, it is less so in the UK and US.  Therefore it is satisfying to see a good response from both of these countries.

It’s too early to establish a definitive pattern in the entries, but the work overall is incredibly wide ranging, from those who have taken a contextual approach to others who have created an iconic structure.  The draw of the imaginative brief combined with the waterside site has clearly had a positive impact on the number of submissions.

The method is completely anonymous at the first stage - the jury will see all of the entries without knowing the source or whether it is an individual or office, new or established.

We expect the jury will take five days to get down to the six finalists. Under the procurement rules, the names of the finalists will be revealed but not the authorship of the individual schemes. To find this out we will all have to wait for the announcement of the winner in early June 2015.


Readers' comments (2)

  • It is heartbreaking to see so much time, cost and creative energy freely invested with such incredibly long odds of success. Rough maths suggests the jury will be able to spend 90 seconds per entry over their five days to find a shortlist of six. How can good design be identified and comparatively judged through such a lottery?

    BD was critical of the "Mary Poppins-like" advice in the recent RIBA Review of Competitions, which stated “Architects need to give more thought to their own reasons for entering competitions and be realistic and business-like about their execution,” but this competition - which is being hailed as a great success - surely defines one extreme of the problem. The onerous entry requirements set out in the Canada Water framework being the other. The primary aim of the Review was to generate more choice for clients; open up opportunities for Architects; and reduce costly waste. Regrettably, both the Helsinki Guggenheim competition and the Canada Water framework appear to fail these tests and the benefits they are intended to achieve.

    Martin Knight

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  • I have just spent an enjoyable couple of hours sifting through the Helsinki entries.They were a great source of good and bad graphic techniques, ideas to "borrow" without knowing the provenance and a chance to play name the architect. Though I'm pretty sure neither Sanaa nor Zaha entered, they both seemed to have spawned numerous poor imitations.
    The competition cannot be presented as a bit of fun. But, like Martin, it cannot be a serious way of finding an architect.
    The jury have much more to review and yet I still found 40+ worth making favourites and finally got down to a shortlist of 6. I probably skimmed through half and must have missed quite a few. However i look forward to seeing the results if only to see if any of mine get through. The Sydney Opera House was salvaged from the reject pile and Zaha's Peak, another competition with hundreds of entries, won though I doubt that the jury thought it was going to be built. Nevertheless both have played significant roles in advancing the art of architecture.

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