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Guggenheim Helsinki

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The next Guggenheim could be a lighthouse of charred timber

Winning design for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki museum unveiled

Should museums be terrifying? Should they look like a modernist redesign of the wizard prison of Azkaban? We're not sure, but newly unveiled plans for the proposed Guggenheim museum in Helsinki, Finland suggest that these are questions that need answers. The design, created by husband-and-wife firm Moreau Kusunoki Architectes, is the winner of a yearlong competition organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. But while the plans have been okayed by the Foundation's 11-member jury, the museum itself needs the approval of the surrounding city before it's built, with residents reportedly concerned about an estimated $147 million price tag.

The design itself is titled "Art in the City," and consists of a series of linked pavilions with sloping roofs, arranged on Helsinki's waterfront and overlooked by a lighthouse-like tower. The architects — Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki — said they wanted to build something different to the solid, monolithic museums of the past, imagining instead a "fragmented, non-hierarchical, horizontal campus ... where art and society could meet."

charred cladding reflects "when forests burn and then grow back stronger."

The museum seeks to merge into its surroundings, with the central tower reflecting "the strong vertical elements of the city," and a facade of charred timber sourced from Finnish wood mirroring the country's "great tradition of wood construction." The charring, meanwhile, supposedly echoes "the process of regeneration that occurs when forests burn and then grow back stronger."

Some residents of Helsinki, however, are not pleased with the winning design. Osku Pajamaki, the vice chairman of the city’s executive board, told The New York Times that the proposed plans would dominate Helsinki's harbor to an uncomfortable degree. "The symbol of the lighthouse is arrogant in the middle of the historical center," he told the paper. "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."

All images courtesy of Moreau Kusunoki Architectes/Guggenheim


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