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Revealed: Guggenheim Helsinki shortlist

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Emerging star Asif Khan is the only UK entrant to have made the six-strong shortlist in the competition to design Helsinki’s new Guggenheim museum

The contest, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants for the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, attracted more entries than any other architectural competition in history, receiving 1,715 submissions from nearly 80 countries.

London-based Khan, who is best known for his Coca Cola Beatbox pavilion at the London 2012 Olympics and his MegaFaces pavilion at this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is lined up for the £100 million job against a diverse list of practices from around the globe.

The most established of the other finalists is Zurich and Los Angeles-based AGPS Architecture which was founded in 1984. The shortlist is completed by Fake Industries Architectural Agonism of New York, Barcelona and Sydney, Moreau Kusunoki Architect from Paris, Haas Cook Zemmrich STUDIO2050 from Germany and SMAR Architecture Studio of Spain and Western Australia.

All six ‘deeply thoughtful’ concept schemes for the 12,000m² waterfront museum in the Finnish capital were revealed this morning (2 December).

Shortlist in full

  • AGPS Architecture (Zurich, Switzerland and Los Angeles, United States of America)
  • Asif Khan (London, United Kingdom)
  • Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (New York, United States of America; Barcelona, Spain; and Sydney, Australia)
  • Haas Cook Zemmrich STUDIO2050 (Stuttgart, Germany)
  • Moreau Kusunoki Architect (Paris, France)
  • SMAR Architecture Studio (Madrid, Spain and Western Australia)

The designs have not been matched to the teams, nor will the jurors or public know which team is responsible for which concept until the winner has been selected in June 2015.

The eleven-member jury, led by dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Mark Wigley, met early last month to review all the stage one entries.

The six finalists will now be invited to visit the site of the proposed museum in January 2015, before further developing their schemes and producing physical models by March 2015.

The winner will receive €100,000 with the runners-up each netting €55,000.

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, said: ‘As we saw from the unprecedented response to Stage One of the competition, this open, independent process has brought to Helsinki exciting, innovative design ideas from all over the world.

‘The jury has chosen six deeply thoughtful design approaches, each of which opens extraordinary possibilities for a Guggenheim in Helsinki and asks us to imagine what a museum of the future can be.’

Project descriptions

Team A


The design features a ring of slender, sculptural towers faced with timber shingles, reminiscent of vernacular architecture, gathered around a cathedral-like central space. The towers, with their play of light and shadow, create an architectural beacon, visible by land or sea, while the central space, sheltered from extremes of weather yet part of the quayside, provides an exceptional new site for public events on the waterfront. Exhibition galleries are housed in timber cabinets stacked within the towers. Bridges connecting the towers offer respite space for visitors between experiencing art and offer new viewing points over the city and harbor.

Team B


The design drapes a skin of textured glass panels over a bar-like, two-story interior structure, creating an environmentally sustainable public space between the facade and the gallery volumes, with natural light diffused throughout. In an unusual innovation, the element that makes the building sustainable — the intelligent glass wrapper, which uses technology such as Nanogel glazing and rollable thermal shutters — is also the element that distinguishes the project visually, giving the building an ethereal presence. Within the building, an annex for the work of younger Nordic artists is paired with a market hall, and a service pavilion encloses a sculpture garden.

Team C


The design links the museum to the rest of the city through a pedestrian footbridge to Tähtitorninvuori Park and a promenade along the port, including a food hall and a market during the warm months. The museum programs are housed in pavilion-scale buildings treated as independent, fragmentary volumes within this landscape, allowing for a strong integration of outdoor display and event spaces with interior exhibition galleries. The ensemble is made to stand out from afar by being composed around a landmark tower. The use of charred timber in the facade evokes the process of regeneration that occurs when forests burn and then grow back stronger than before.

Team D


The scheme creates two facilities in dialogue with each other. The ground floor is an adaptive reuse of the existing Makasiini Terminal, conceived as a public space that extends the pedestrian boardwalk into the building. This is a place for education, civic activity, and incubating ideas. The second floor is an exhibition hall on stilts, which hovers above the terminal building, partly removed from everyday life. The long rectangular volume offers a flexible space for all types of exhibitions and adheres to the notion of a museum as a space apart. Through this dual scheme, the proposed museum could engage its public to co-create value and meaning.

Team E


The scheme reconfigures circulation and use of the East and West Harbors to establish an area of industrial activity and an area of cultural activity, with the museum as the link between the city and the waterfront. In a critical shift from the idea of a building as static object to a building that accommodates the flux of daily life, a city street runs through the interior of the museum, opening it to appropriation by the citizens and creating a combination of programs: a museum program and an unpredictable street program, in which visitors may become productive and creative users of the space.

Team F


The design reuses the laminated wood structure of the Makasiini Terminal to rebuild a wooden volume that exactly follows the geometry of the original, and preserves the current views from the park and the adjacent buildings. Within this structure — essentially an undisturbed network of existing conditions — the project creates 31 rooms: eight of them measuring 20 x 20 m, 18 of them 6.5 x 6.5 m, four of them 10 x 10 m, and one 40 x 100 m. This rigid set of spatial conditions is combined with a deliberate distribution of climates based on the program and principles of sustainability, with each room acclimatized independently so that the galleries together form a “thermal onion.”



Which scheme do you want to win?

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Calling for three submissions to be disqualified as they do not follow any rules of submission. (i.e. orientation of boards, compulsory views and sequencing). This is very discouraging to any practice that actually bothered to adhere to the rules and read Q&As.

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