An unknown husband-and-wife duo beat out 1,714 other entrants to create the next Guggenheim.

By Spencer Peterson
June 24, 2015
"Art in the City"

It’s been called the largest and most transparent architecture competition ever, yielding 1,715 proposals from 77 countries, all made available to the public on a single website. This morning, it yielded a pair of winners you’ve never heard of. The Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation has chosen a plan by the young husband-and-wife design team of Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki for the Guggenheim Helsinki.

The Guggenheim, which has exported its brand to Venice, Bilbao, and Abu Dhabi with satellite locations, is known less for its collections than for the buildings that house them—mostly for Frank Lloyd Wright’s eggshell upside-down Devo hat in New York,
and Frank Gehry’s warped metal tangle in Bilbao. The winning design for the Helsinki museum is a group of linked pavilions clad in ever-chic charred timber and organized around an “interior street.” To one end is lighthouse-like tower topped with a glass enclosure, connected to the nearby Observatory Park by a new pedestrian footbridge.

It’s still unclear whether the project will ever be realized, though having a design will inevitably shift the conversation. Picking an unassuming low-rising anti-museum by a pair of unknowns will undoubtedly help against the claims of extravagance over its proposed $147 million budget. A 2011 poll showed that most Helsinkians opposed the project, though Helsinki mayor Jussi Pajunen is a fan, because of its potential to drive economic development.

Members of the design community opposed to the museum launched the Next Helsinki design competition as an alternative, taking proposals for just about anything else in the South Harbor site. Jury member Michael Sorkin once described the Guggenheim foundation as a vehicle for “constrained conversation, a cultural bauble, a Starbucks that offers the same global art and high prices.”

In a statement, Guggenheim Helsinki jury chair Mark Wigley said the winning design “is imbued with a sense of community and animation that matches the ambitions of the brief to honor both the people of Finland and the creation of a more responsive museum of the future." In its official statement, the jury describes the design as “deeply respectful of the site and setting, creating a fragmented, non-hierarchical campus of linked pavilions where art and society could meet and intermingle.”

Riitta Supperi
Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition

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