The ever-growing Guggenheim Museum has launched a website for the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition, its first international architectural competition. The proposed Guggenheim site is situated on the southwestern edge of the South Harbor district of the Finnish capital. The building itself will occupy approximately 130,000 square feet, making it comparable in size to the museum’s New York mothership. Its projected construction budget is about $177 million.
The foundation began accepting submissions this month; competition will last approximately one year. Six shortlisted proposals will be announced this fall, with a winner expected to be announced in June 2015. Five semi-finalists will each receive a prize of about $75,000; the creator(s) of the winning design will take home about $136,000. A deputy museum director told A.i.A. that submissions have already been received from emerging and established firms from the U.S., Europe, Finland, Japan and China.
An 11-member jury, chaired by Mark Wigley, professor and dean of the graduate school of architecture, planning and preservation at New York’s Columbia University, will comprise architects including Jeanne Gang and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, scholars such as Erkki KM Leppävuori and city and state officials, as well as Guggenheim Foundation director and Guggenheim New York chief curator Nancy Spector. The competition will be overseen by the London-based Malcolm Reading Consultants and organized in collaboration with the Helsinki-based Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA), the city of Helsinki and the Finish state. Established and emerging talents alike are encouraged to submit proposals.
A Guggenheim Helsinki has been in the offing since 2011, when Helsinki mayor Jussi Pajunen commissioned a $2.7-million concept and development study. In May 2012, the city council rejected the foundation’s proposal in an 8-7 vote, fearing a huge financial burden. In September 2013, the Guggenheim revised its original proposal, reducing the projected costs and thus reviving the project’s chances.
The ongoing expansion of the Guggenheim empire has been highly controversial. Founded in New York in 1937, the museum has since opened an outpost in Bilbao, Spain (1997), assumed operation of the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice, Italy (1980); and started construction on a branch in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Guggenheim is known for its iconic buildings, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s renowned New York edifice and Frank Gehry’s mammoth structure in Bilbao.
Other Guggenheim venues have shuttered or failed to launch. A small branch was open in New York’s SoHo neighborhood from 1992 to 2001; a Berlin outpost was in operation from 1997-2012. Some undertakings, such as a Zaha Hadid-designed branch in Vilnius, Lithuania. Slated for a 2011 open, the project has remained inactive since 2010 due to allegations of misappropriated municipal funding. Construction on the Guggenheim’s Frank Gehry-designed Abu Dhabi outpost has also stalled numerous times-causing its completion date to be pushed back from 2011 to 2013 to 2015 and now to 2017. The project has also incited public outcry for human rights abuses and unfair labor practices involved in its construction.
While the city of Helsinki has approved the decision to reserve the South Harbor site for a potential Guggenheim, the proposal awaits approval by the city board.