Guggenheim Helsinki
Helsinki, Finland

nARCHITECTS saw the Guggenheim Helsinki competition as presenting two inter-related opportunities: to propose a vision for Eteläsatama’s transformation into a civic destination for contemporary art, design, and architecture, and to develop a new engine for the conception and experience of current and future media and forms of art. The Art Wharf unites these twin goals by locating the experience of art within an inherently urban framework.

This Guggenheim Helsinki proposal emerges from the Helsinki typologies that signal a division between city and harbor – the urban courtyard block and the wharf building – to result in a museum building that creates a transition between the two. The integration of urban spaces and wharf buildings as models for a future museum also extends a current tendency of the Guggenheim and other contemporary museums to engage with wider publics beyond the institution’s boundaries, and to stage experiences of art within large and flexible formerly industrial spaces.

A simple and luminous volume begins at Eteläinen Makasiinikatu and gently slopes South along Laivasillankatu towards Bernhardinkatu, revealing a dramatic view to Tähtitornin Park.  Surrounded by new public spaces on all sides, the building makes strong visual and programmatic connections at grade.  Within this civic footprint, we have proposed two distinct yet flexible art environments: the contiguous, street level Art Wharf, with traditional galleries above, and a more transparent Public Wharf, connected to city and harbour.  These art environments will simultaneously recall typical Helsinki urban courtyards and terminal buildings, rooting Guggenheim Helsinki’s presence at Eteläsatama within a familiar context, and enhancing the cultural and public life of the city.

In its transformation of the urban block and wharf building typologies into a civic icon for the harbour, the Art Wharf will engage visitors with art immediately upon arrival. From the street level entrance on the north side, the museum visit begins with a multi-purpose art environment doubling as the lobby, and through a progression of spaces with varying light qualities and scales, terminates in a light filled winter garden at its southern end, with a strong visual connection to the harbor. This series of accessible and dramatic spaces will immediately communicate the Guggenheim Helsinki’s goal to expand the art experience to new audiences with multidisciplinary approaches, performance-based initiatives and educational programming.

In a simple curatorial loop, the Art Wharf spaces are connected to the galleries above via a series of cascading stairs and landings that afford dramatic water views. These circulation spaces, along with retail, café and lounge areas, are located in the Public Wharf along the museum’s east façade – a luminous buffer space with continuous connections to the harbour. In contrast, the west façade is punctured with entry points for the Education and Events lobby, which connects to the performance hall, artist workshops, and administration above. In this way, while the Laivasillankatu street side accommodates outreach, administrative and back of house functions, the water’s edge is continuously activated by art and social activities.

Guggenheim Helsinki
Project Location: Helsinki, Finland
Status: Competition
Area: 12,150 m²
nARCHITECTS Team: Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (Principals); Albert Figueras, Gabrielle Marcoux (Project Leaders) Jin Jin Chiu, Catherine Lie, Catharina Meier, Gawon Shin, Wei Wen, Shixiao Zhang
Collaborators : Museum consultant: Museoplan; Structural: MKA; Environmental: ARUP; Rendering: dB renders