November 7, 2014

Crowdsourcing the new Guggenheim Helsinki

A fascinating, and scary, approach to museum design:
The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition is the first open, international architectural competition to be organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. This initiative reflects the Guggenheim’s long history of engagement with architecture and design and its belief that outstanding original design can speak across cultures, refreshing and enlivening the urban environment.
What is fascinating? The competition is open to any architect and all entries are anonymous--there is no shortlist of the usual suspect starchictects. The jury will select six finalists without knowing which firm submitted the design. So far more than 1,700 designed have been submitted. Many are interesting. A few are quite odd. Some are strikingly beautiful.

What is scary? The goal seems to be to create an architectural landmark rather than a great museum. Here are the project's principles:
  • Outstanding, engaging, original design
  • Potential to become a landmark and a symbol of Helsinki
  • Sensitivity to historic waterfront setting
  • Sustainable placemaking from an economic, social, and environmental perspective
  • Strong connections to the historic city center, harbor and urban context, which are evident and enjoyable in all seasons
  • A design informed by Nordic ideals, including openness and accessibility
Where is "Be one of the world's great art museums"?

To be fair, the project brief does includes functional requirements and, admirably, says that "all areas of the museum should be conceived in terms of how they support social interaction and the experience of art. They should enhance the dialogue between visitors and art,"

The Guggenheim got luck in Bilbao by hiring an architect who fundamentally understands museums (see the Norton Simon), while also being able to create dramatic design solutions.  Will they be so lucky in Helsinki?