The new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki is part of the city’s revitalization strategy focused on redeveloping the waterfront into an active public space. The museum, built on the old terminal facing the water, becomes a recreational spot. The design of the building embodies a careful relation with the environment that ties it to its culture and space. Following the idea that the water should become the central part of the building, we created a shelter around it, like an ice shanty. The water is brought into the museum by communicating vessels through holes on the ground.
The museum faces the city as much as the ocean and creates a strong visual interconnection between Helsinki’s downtown and the waterfront. Its form is a link within the city rather than a divisive sculptural expression; its accessible hall makes the building a social monument rather than a sculptural one. In an urban scale it acts as a point of reference inside the bay giving a whole new reading to the waterfront. In human scale the great hall fosters public awareness and engagement with the arts as it becomes an open museum with a free access.
The generous open space at the street level provides the public a multipurpose space, where people can gather around besides visiting the art exhibitions. The cafés and gift shops, accessed through the hall and in direct visual and physical contact with the waterfront, are destinations that produce opportunities to generate revenue for the institution while they provide a public amenity. Care was taken with the design of these components, so that they seamlessly integrated themselves into the overall character of the building.
The main lobby was conceived as an enclosed space, a segment of articulation for the different components of the museum. The galleries run alongside and above the main hall and remain open facing the hall, city and ocean. So, the facades allow an alternation of views between the city, the waterfront and the interior of the museum. The main material used in the facade and the galleries' lattice is Finnish wood, a local and sustainable resource that offers a warm appearance in the building.