Weston Williamson + Partners

Weston Williamson + Partners

London, GB


Guggenheim Helsinki

The Archipelago Guggenheim is a museum conceived with the user very much in mind. The importance of representing Nordic Art and Architecture continued to be a key contributing factor within the overall concept behind our approach to designing this museum in Helsinki.

Both the Guggenheim New York and Bilbao Institutions are indebted to the contemporary art on show as well as the Architecture that plays host to such great artwork. The Archipelago Guggenheim creates a unique spectacle in the viewing of art following suit with its iconic predecessors.

Located in South-West Finland of the Eteläsatama region, the Archipelago Guggenheim taps into the topographical grain synonymous to the region. Close to the Archipelago Sea, home to the largest island group in the world, the Guggenheim Helsinki seeks to restore the link between the greater land mass of Finland and the Sea. Creating a connection between the ‘green-fingers’ of Helsinki and the Port, the antithesis of the overall concept.

The clustered islands of the archipelago formed the basis behind the composition of our design, with each organic architectural form sculpted to retain a series of important viewpoints between the park and the port. Each ‘island’ inevitably correlates to a unique gallery space, as no two islands are the same across the archipelago landscape. This has provided the identity of each of the museum’s galleries allowing a series of distinct and dynamic dome-like spaces alongside more formal galleries. A series of nodes and bridges connect the pebble like forms, performing as interstitial spaces; circulation through the Archipelago now becomes seamless, as the visitor is able to clearly define one gallery from the next.

The landscaped roof connects the Tähtitorninvuoren Park with the Guggenheim Museum and introduces a spectacular public realm at the summit of the Archipelago, merging the park with the Guggenheim. Several organic peaks compose the buildings mass, capped with a pedestrian link which will host an elevated garden; the footbridge, providing the connection between the top of the galleries and the park, narrowing and widening as it comes into close proximity with the Guggenheim, reminiscent of a sail boat weaving between islands in voyage. At this point the visitor can enjoy the magnificent views out towards the Archipelago Sea, the Port of Helsinki and Uspenski Cathedral in the distance before descending through the carved peaks of the roofscape to the exhibitions below. Highlighting these viewpoints and the connection to the landscape within our design concept.

In contrast to the white bulbous exterior, a timber skin envelopes the interior of the museum. This dual skin structure creates a cavity within which light and ventilation can be controlled meticulously. The harsh changes in weather conditions provided an interesting approach in introducing light within the building. Large white surfaces within the peaks will create a backdrop for installations and also maximise what little light is available in winter months.

The use of timber resonates Finnish Architecture at its best. The Guggenheim’s demand for cutting-edge technology caused us to consider the recycling of local Finnish timber and the reuse of this material in 3D printing. A series of repeatable 3D printed timber panels can be interlocked to create the warm glow of the sculpted timber interior walls. This inner lining rises from the gallery walls, weaving between the crisp white surfaces of the exhibition spaces all the way up to the glowing oculus’ above. This has been made possible by creating a single symmetrical cladding unit that can be rotated and fixed into a seemingly complex and unique mesh. Ensuring a minimal number of unique parts within the system emphasises an efficient and sustainable approach to construction.

Not only does the Archipelago Guggenheim address contextual requirements in its design, it reinforces the values and mission statements of the Guggenheim Foundation. The Archipelago is a distinguished piece of Architecture that intends to work hand in hand with great artists and great artworks, the hallmark of Guggenheim Museums past and present.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Helsinki, FI