What to build after Bilbao? Frank Gerhy’s Guggenheim has become one of the most famous construction ever. The architectural icon of the late 20th century. Where to go from there?

According to a visitor survey, more than 1 million people (79% of all visitors) travelled to Bilbao expressly to see the Guggenheim Museum. We can expect the same proportion for the Guggenheim Helsinki. Because of Helsinki’s beauty, it is even more important to combine the two experiences: City and Museum.

Unlike many museums designed as introvert constructions that could be placed anywhere, this proposal for the new Guggenheim relates intimately to the city. While belonging externally to the language of the harbour, internally, each gallery space focuses on one of Helsinki’s iconic buildings. Like a giant ‘Viewmaster’ of the city. The Museum is designed from the inside. It is a functional envelope capable of housing art in whatever form it might be in the future.

Also, since Bilbao the world’s attention is shifting towards nature. Respect for the environment has become central to any development. Architecture, especially after the Global Financial Crisis, is more efficient, rational… frugal. Great importance is attached to the ecological footprint, to the life cycle and expectancy of the construction.

This project proposes a light weight building, constructed with minimal amount of material. Built from elements that are locally sourced or produced and have a minimal ecological footprint.  The iconography of the building is also of its time. From the outside, the museum boasts a very distinctive form, suggestive of natural element like a giant crystal or a snowflake in volume.

The shape and the materiality of the museum relates more to the port infrastructure than the Eteläsatama district. The shore front of this quarter is so strong and regular that it would be a mistake to try to extend it into the harbour. The museum lays in front of it, independently. Nevertheless, the overall scale of the construction is comparable to the existing urban frontage. The façade material is friendly. Timber cladding confer to the construction a temporary feel, even though designed to last.

The museum is sited at the northern tip of the site, leaving plenty of space for port activity or the future water edge’s promenade. This location leaves the views from and to Tähtitornin Vuori Park unobstructed.

At ground level, the Guggenheim Museum is approachable from all directions. The visitor wanders between the spikes to discover an ample hall filled with natural light. A wide void connects all levels. Like in New York’s Guggenheim, the void could display large 3d art installation. Escalators leading to the elevated levels criss-cross this space. Level One houses temporary exhibitions that takes places around the central void. The administration offices are places on the periphery. Level two is the main level for events with a large Concert Hall that takes advantage of the raking floors. Level three is the Main Gallery space. The main exhibition area is divided in 9 alcoves, each one framing a perspective of an iconic part of the city: Helsinki cathedral, Uspenskin Cathedral, Luoto… The art space is varied and flexible allowing each alcove to be curated independently if desired. The space features long straight walls, ideal for painting display. The alcoves make the gallery perfect for installations. where the alcoves joined the space is tall and suitable for large sculptures. Here, the light is soft, zenithal and controlled. The top level is reserved to the dining experience. Restaurant and café open onto a large terrace from where you see glimpses of the city between the spikes of the roof. Right at the top, there is a lookout, from which one can embrace a 360* view of the city centre and port.