Guggenheim Foundation Announces 1,715 Submissions for Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition

Response to Guggenheim’s first-ever open, anonymous, international architectural competition is among largest in history of design competitions


(HELSINKI, September 17, 2014) The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced today that 1,715 submissions have been received in response to Stage One of the open, anonymous, international, two-stage competition for the design of a proposed Guggenheim largest architectural competition in Helsinki, for the Helsinki Central Library, which attracted 544 entries in 2012.

Stage One of the competition was open to qualified architects, including people who have professional degrees in architecture—either individuals or teams—from anywhere in the world. Anonymous submissions were due September 10, 2014, and were received from 77 countries, according to voluntary data provided by 70 percent of competitors. The United States, Italy, Finland, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan represent the top six countries from which submissions were received.

Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, said:

When we launched the competition for the design of the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki, we hoped that it would inspire architects everywhere—emerging and established alike—to imagine what the museum of the twenty-first century could be and catalyze a global exchange of ideas about architecture and its traditions, urbanism, public buildings, and the future of cities. We are awed and humbled by the tremendous response to the call for entries, and we look forward to engaging in a full and public exploration of the submissions in the coming months.’

Launched on June 4 and 5 with events in Helsinki and at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition is a first for the Guggenheim, which has not previously sought a museum design through an open competition. It also marks a key milestone in the Guggenheim’s long engagement with architecture and design, which includes landmark buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry as well as a first-of-its-kind, mobile, carbon-fiber structure by Atelier Bow-Wow created for the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a pioneering global initiative that took the Guggenheim’s educational mission into the streets of New York, Berlin, and Mumbai with free public programming and city projects related to issues of urban life.

Malcolm Reading, chairman of London-based Malcolm Reading Consultants, said:

‘The response to the competition has been magnificent, and we are impressed by the level of effort and care taken by competitors in making their submissions. Finland’s impeccable design pedigree, the Guggenheim Foundation’s steadfast commitment to this initiative, and a rare site at the symbolic gateway to the city from the sea are all elements that shape this fascinating project and have combined to attract and motivate architects from extremely diverse cultural backgrounds.’

Helsinki mayor, Jussi Pajunen, said:

‘With the Finnish heritage of design and our tradition of open competition, it is very positive that Helsinki is at the center of this global conversation. We expect that the submissions—both from Finland and abroad—will have much to tell us about the transformative power of architecture.’

Jury Process

As the next step in the competition, the independent, eleven-member competition jury will meet in Helsinki in early November to review the Stage One submissions and choose the top six entries to continue to Stage Two of the competition. Selected by the Guggenheim, the State of Finland, the City of Helsinki, and the Finnish Society of Architects (SAFA), the wide-ranging jury includes practicing and academic architects and urbanists, arts practitioners, and local experts on urban issues and planning, sustainability, and Helsinki and Finnish politics.

Competitors were asked to submit innovative and creative designs demonstrating strong connections to Helsinki’s historic city center, South Harbor, and its urban context while reflecting Nordic ideals. Submissions will be judged anonymously on the basis of their architectural design, relationship to the site and the cityscape, practicality for users, sustainability (including criteria for the use of materials), and feasibility, according to the guidelines established in the competition brief.

Jury chair Mark Wigley, professor and former dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, said:

‘The response to this competition affirms the unique ability of architecture to ignite imagination and promote continuous public dialogue about what we want our cities and built environment to be. As jurors, we are privileged with the responsibility of assessing the submitted concepts and are excited to explore their potential for Helsinki and for museum design at large.’

Announcement of Short List

The shortlisted entries will be presented in Helsinki at a media event on December 2, 2014. In accordance with European Union procurement rules, shortlisted teams or individuals will be named but will not be matched to their designs. Shortlisted designers will be invited to visit the proposed museum site in Helsinki in December and will have until March 2015 to make final submissions.

Winning Selection

The winning design will be announced in June 2015. The winner will be awarded a prize of €100,000 (approximately $136,000). The five runners-up each will receive €55,000 (approximately $75,000).

Public Programs and Engagement

Throughout the fall and winter, the public will have several opportunities to explore the Stage One submissions as well as other topics related to the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition and museum architecture:

  • As part of a series of competition-related programs initiated in collaboration with the Guggenheim Foundation for a Museum of the Future course, Aalto University in Helsinki will welcome Joel Sanders, professor adjunct, Yale School of Architecture, for a public lecture on September 24 at 5 pm. Competition juror Juan Herreros, chair professor at the School of Architecture of Madrid and professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, will speak on October 30 at 6 pm. Both lectures will be held in the Department of Architecture at Aalto University, Otakaari 1 X, auditorium A1.
  • On October 7, the Guggenheim Foundation will host its inaugural Wikipedia edit-a-thon, welcoming Wikipedians, architects, architectural scholars, members of the media, and museum members and staff to expand and enhance the topic of museum architecture on Wikipedia and discuss the impact of new museum buildings, expansions, and renovations and the effect of museum design on the presentation of art and the audience experience. The event will be held from 2–8 pm in the New Media Theater at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Speakers include William Menking, founder and editor-in-chief, The Architect’s Newspaper, and Cara Cragan, Director of Architectural Projects, Helsinki and Abu Dhabi, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Amanda Parmer, curator and owner of PARMER.
  • On October 15, Joel Sanders, professor adjunct, Yale School of Architecture, will lead a panel discussion on the Guggenheim Helsinki competition and the future of museum architecture to be held at the Center for Architecture as part of New York City’s fourth annual, month-long Archtober festival of architecture activities, programs, and exhibitions ( Panelists will include competition jury members Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Jeanne Gang, founder and principal, Studio Gang Architects, as well as Cara Cragan, Director of Architectural Projects, Helsinki and Abu Dhabi, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
  • In late October, an online gallery of submitted entries will be launched on the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition website and will include opportunities for the public to identify and share their top selections. The competition website has been viewed by more than 77,000 visitors globally since its launch on June 4, 2014.

The Guggenheim Helsinki Live series, initiated in October 2013 to invite public discussion and exploration of ideas related to the proposed museum project, will continue through spring 2015 with events in Helsinki and in other Finnish cities. Also planned for spring 2015 is an exhibition of shortlisted proposals to be presented in Helsinki.