Only half a dozen City of Helsinki councillors have confirmed they will support the high-profile Guggenheim museum project
Only six out of 69 councillors contacted by the Helsinki Times said they would approve the scheme going ahead and being mostly paid for from the public purse.
A total of 31 councillors opposed the contentious South Harbour scheme – which is estimated to cost £90 million – and 32 declined to comment.
Parisian newcomer Moreau Kusunoki Architects defeated five rival finalists to win the competition to design Helsinki’s new Guggenheim museum last week (23 June).
The city council – which has 85 permanent members – is expected to make a final decision on the high-profile scheme early next year.
Opposition has mostly focussed on the project’s cost to the public purse however criticism of the winning design’s appearance has also emerged.
Osku Pajamaki, vice chair of Helsinki’s execuctive board, told The New York Times: ‘The symbol of the lighthouse is arrogant in the middle of the historical centre.
He continued: ‘It’s like you would put a Guggenheim museum next to Notre Dame in Paris. People are approaching from the sea, and the first thing that they will see is that the citizens of Helsinki bought their identity from the Guggenheim.’
Advocates of the scheme however claim it could generate around £36 million a year for the local economy and deliver 500 new jobs.
Guggenheim Museum and Foundation director Richard Armstrong said: ‘The so-called cost amortizes out very quickly in terms of net tax increase, not to mention the intangibles, which are frequently change of perception of the venue and willingness on the part of other investors to look at a site.
He continued: ‘We’re not saying the Bilbao effect will be totally replicated; we’re saying that’s our history — the payback is really quite rapid.’
Commenting in response to the Helsinki Times poll, a Guggenheim spokesperson said: ‘It is too early to speculate about whether there is necessary support for the development of the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki as the local stakeholders have not yet defined the model on which a decision would be based.’
The statement continued: ‘From numerous discussions with a wide range of stakeholders over four years, the Guggenheim is confident that the Finnish decision-makers at all levels will fully consider the financial and cultural benefits of the proposed museum.’
The design competition – organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants – was launched in June 2014 after the city’s governing board earmarked a waterfront plot for the project.
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 2014.