Guggenheim issues global call for designs for proposed Helsinki museum

Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation holds first open design competition


(NEW YORK, NY – June 4, 2014) With launch events on June 4 and 5 in Helsinki and Venice, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has formally called for entries to begin its open, international architectural competition for the design of a proposed Guggenheim museum in Helsinki. The keenly anticipated two-stage competition is expected to draw submissions from a wide range of firms and individuals—emerging and internationally famous—from Finland and around the world.

This is the first time that the Guggenheim Foundation, long recognized for commissioning transformational works of architecture, has sought a design through an open competition. It is embarking on this new course in one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in Europe, located at the intersection of East and West and respected internationally for its heritage of modern architecture and design. The firm or team selected through this competition will take its place in the lineage of both Helsinki, as exemplified by renowned architects such as Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen, and of the Guggenheim, with its landmark buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry and first-of-its-kind carbon-fiber structure by Atelier Bow-Wow created for the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

More than seven hundred inquiries about participation have been received from people around the world even before the official start of the competition.

Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, announced details of the competition process at a media conference held today at Helsinki’s Restaurant Palace. The venue overlooks the site for the proposed museum, on city-owned land in the southwestern part of Helsinki’s magnificent South Harbor. Mr. Armstrong will next introduce the competition to the international architectural community gathered for the 14th International Architecture Biennale, hosting a reception on June 5 at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Mr. Armstrong stated:

‘It is essential to the Guggenheim’s mission to engage directly with people throughout the world, to affirm the transformative potential of art, and to fuse the experience of contemporary art with great architecture. This competition advances all of those goals, with the aim of inspiring an exemplary museum of the twenty-first century that is also a meaningful addition to the landscape of Helsinki.’

The Guggenheim is organizing the architectural competition in consultation with the City of Helsinki, the State of Finland, and the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA). The competition is managed by the London-based firm Malcolm Reading Consultants, a specialist in architectural competitions for arts, heritage, and nonprofit organizations. Notice of the competition will be published in accordance with European Union procurement regulations.

During and following the competition period, the Guggenheim will continue its ongoing series of public programs, Guggenheim Helsinki Live, to invite discussion and exploration of the ideas behind the proposed museum project. The event series will be produced in collaboration with the Guggenheim Helsinki Supporting Foundation, and several of the public programs will be developed with Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Speaking on behalf of the City of Helsinki, Mayor Jussi Pajunen stated:

‘Helsinki wants to profile itself as a city of culture and design. The international architectural competition regarding a Guggenheim Helsinki museum builds on the legacy of Helsinki’s year as World Design Capital and the rich architectural tradition present in the cityscape. I look eagerly forward to seeing the ideas on how the historical South Harbour could look in the future.’

Professor Erkki Leppävuori, President and CEO of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and a member of the competition jury, stated:

‘This competition promises to be extremely exciting. The site, which is rich and varied as a cultural and environmental setting, poses potentially productive technical challenges to architects and structural engineers, who also must address the high expectations and lively opinions of our citizens. I am sure that the competitors will respond with many excellent proposals. Finland and Helsinki need more groundbreaking cultural hot spots, and I expect this competition will enhance and broaden our discussions about culture.’

Rules and Schedule of the Competition

Anonymous submissions for Stage One of the competition are due September 10, 2014. An eleven-member jury chaired by Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, will meet in Helsinki and select six finalists from the submissions received during Stage One.

Submissions will be judged 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. An online exhibition will enable the public to view all entries in Stage One, with special prominence given to the thirty highest-rated submissions.

In November 2014, the Guggenheim will announce the finalists and Stage Two of the competition will begin. Shortlisted individuals or firms will have until March 2015 to make their submissions. The jury will meet again in Helsinki to judge the final entries. The Guggenheim will announce the winner in June 2015. The winner of the competition will be awarded €100,000 (approximately $136,000) and the five runner-ups will each receive €55,000 (approximately $75,000).

The City of Helsinki and the State of Finland are expected to deliberate on whether to proceed with the construction and development of the museum after the competition concludes.

Competition Jury

The members of the jury have been selected by the Guggenheim, the State of Finland, the City of Helsinki, and SAFA. The jurors are:

  • Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University (jury chair)
  • Mikko Aho, Director of City Planning and architect, City of Helsinki
  • Jeanne Gang, Founder and Principal, Studio Gang Architects
  • Juan Herreros, Professor, and Founder, Estudio Herreros
  • Anssi Lassila, Architect, Founder, OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture
  • Erkki Leppävuori, President and CEO, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
  • Rainer Mahlamäki, Professor and Founder, Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects
  • Helena Säteri, Director General, Ministry of the Environment, Finland
  • Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
  • Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Founder, Atelier Bow-Wow
  • Ritva Viljanen, Deputy Mayor, City of Helsinki

Richard Armstrong will attend the jury’s deliberations in an honorary, non-voting capacity.

Support for the Competition

The competition is made possible by the Guggenheim Helsinki Supporting Foundation, Guggenheim Helsinkiin Association, Louise och Göran Ehrnrooth Foundation, and private individuals who wish to remain anonymous, with special thanks to the BMW Group for its support.

Vision for a New Guggenheim Helsinki

The proposal that the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation presented to the City of Helsinki in September 2013 envisions a Guggenheim Helsinki that would organize and present internationally significant exhibitions of artworks from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries while also specializing in Nordic art and architecture. The museum would feature programs organized by the Guggenheim Foundation that might not otherwise be seen in Finland and would also generate exhibitions to be presented at other Guggenheim museums and at institutions around the world. Over time, the museum would develop a permanent collection reflecting the Guggenheim Helsinki’s exhibition program.

The Guggenheim considers it especially important that the museum serve Helsinki residents as a central gathering place and year-round focus of culture, while also creating a premier destination on Helsinki’s superb waterfront for international visitors.

The proposed museum site sits along the southwestern edge of the South Harbor, near the intersection of Eteläranta and Laivasillankatu and adjacent to the Olympia Terminal. Its dimensions are approximately 18,520 square meters (approximately 200,000 square feet). The museum building would occupy 12,100 square meters (approximately 130,000 square feet) of that area and would include approximately 4,000 square meters (approximately 43,000 square feet) of exhibition space, making its galleries comparable in size to those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The building’s total anticipated construction value is €130 M, excluding taxes.

A Concept and Development Study conducted by the Guggenheim found that a Guggenheim Helsinki could expect to draw 550,000 visitors a year. Annual economic impact is anticipated at €41 M, including the creation of more than 100 jobs at the museum itself and 340–80 jobs elsewhere in Finland, as well as a net total of 3 million euros in additional annual tax revenues. To download the full study in English or Finnish, visit

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The Guggenheim network that began in the 1970s when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was joined by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (opened 1997) and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (currently in development). Looking to the future, the Guggenheim Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that take contemporary art, architecture, and design beyond the walls of the museum, including with the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative and with The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. More information about the foundation can be found at

About Guggenheim Helsinki Supporting Foundation

The purpose of the Guggenheim Helsinki Supporting Foundation is to support the development of a Guggenheim Helsinki Museum. Initially, the Foundation will support an open, international architectural competition to generate ideas for the museum building and related public programs designed to engage society at large. The Foundation serves its purpose by collecting funds and by using such funds and other income to directly or indirectly carry out the tasks set out in its mission statement. Guggenheim, the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa, and the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT established the Foundation in Helsinki in spring 2014.