Prying Helsinki

Helsinki Guggenheim Museum

“In the sand they do not perish,
Not the pieces in the ocean;
But transformed, in wondrous beauty
All the fragments come together
Forming pieces two in number,
One the upper, one the lower,
Equal to the one, the other.”

TIME: 2014

SCALE: 20,000 sqm

LOCATION: Helsinki

STATUS: Competition Entry


The concept of Guggenheim Helsinki is originated in Kalevala, the epic poetry which played an instrumental role in the development of the Finnish national identity. Dedicated to the memory of the site’s history, an area reclaimed from the sea at the start of the twentieth century, the museum captures a moment described in Kalevala’s opening sections, when no land had been formed and there were only primal waters and sky. Far extending the sky and water, Guggenheim Helsinki presents a surreal gesture on this artificial ground. The façade from the entering side reflects the sky in real time, showing a logic-defying scene with a patch of sky emerging from the ocean, giving daily life a hallucinatory lift.

The Guggenheim Helsinki is a place to recognize, to respect and to value both the site and city’s history. Some existing programs and structures, which connect the site into a larger urban context, have been purposely kept on site, transforming into impartible parts of the new museum building. The 10-meter width by 5.5-meter vehicular access at lower level raises the N-W side of the museum up along the Laivasillankatu road. This makes a new public green space in front of the museum possible, which functions as an extension of Tahititornin Vuori Park. The passenger terminal is incorporated into the museum, with visual connectivity but separate circulation system.

In the recognition of the role of architecture in culture-led urban regeneration, the Guggenheim Helsinki creates a dialogue between man and nature, real and surreal. Externally, its reflective surface invites the viewer to take a deeper look at what is in front of them, and at what the image truly represents. Internally, different from traditional exhibition spaces, a wide range of exhibition units function like living creative laboratories, encouraging visitors to participate in a wide range of interactive public programs including discussions, performances and screenings. Moreover, taking advantage of Helsinki’s low-angle winter sun, Guggenheim Helsinki has been designed as an urban installation by itself. It functions like a giant kaleidoscope, through its longitudinal section the winter sun shines through at certain times of the day, casting shadows of the museum’s section across the streets below. This unique urban phenomenon will be turned into minor public festivals.

Master Plan


1- Open Public Space

The museum is accessible from ground level of harbor, as well as upper level at the park extension. It forms a loop together with the park and the front plaza at the harbor.

2-Inserted Pier

The cruise pier is inserted to the museum building, visually connected, but circulation separated. We embrace the original function of the site to the new building, to maintain the memory of site. 

3- Museum Circulation

Series of spaces are looping all the slabs. Main shafts serve as structural cores and vertical arteries. Two sets of egress stair are located at both ends of the building.

4- Coefficient and Abovegrade Structure Base

The massing  is a compacted box, which helps to reduce the shape coefficient (surface area/ volume), optimizes the thermal performance and maximize the heating efficiency in winter. It is constructed upon the shallow base on the ground level. By avoid underground construction,  it helps to reduce the cost and environmental impact.

5-Modulated Elements

The building is design to be modulated, to allow prefabrication, easy maintenance and replacement. The whole building is a renewable assembly, that allows for future adjustment and expansion.

6-Finish Wood

The most slab finish in this museum is made by finish wood. A renewable natural material with extreme high quality that help create human-friendly indoor environment.

Section – Lobby

Section – Pier

Section – Exhibition

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