The project we developed for the competition for the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki combines a strange shape, that of an impressive flower typical of the northernmost reaches of Europe, the Lakka flower, and a design which, in terms of its style and approach, will be familiar to Finnish people. This combination of different elements confers on the building a presence that is simultaneously incongruous and reassuring.
Located in the port of Helsinki, the museum is accessed from Tähtitornin Park via a footbridge, or through the docks, or by means of the curved paths cutting through a series of small, planted hills.
Our proposal – which was not retained by the competition’s jury – places the building, the “Lakka Flower”, on an undulating wooden base whose movement and rhythm form walls and open spaces. The pure white fiberglass concrete “petals” of the building emerge from this base. On the side facing the sea, the building opens outwards, a glass wall providing a wide panoramic view of the port and its islands. Three materials are combined: white fiberglass concrete, a timber base, and a series of large glass chassis.
Prolonging the tense curves of the external facades, the interior walls and ceilings in highly polished timber evoke the inside of a boat and create a convivial feel. This is the heart of the museum, the grand atrium. It hosts all the visitor services – the bar, the restaurant, the shop, the ticket office – as well as temporary artistic events. The atrium is an homage to the original Guggenheim Museum. All the exhibition halls are located on the first floor, which is reached by escalators or by the panoramic lift surrounded by the spiral of the stairwell. Taken together, the volume of the atrium, the stairwell and the lift create a spectacular movement, an ascending wooden helix.
The atrium’s glass roof mirrors the shape of a snowflake. A cloud of stainless steel is featured in the centre, reflecting in all directions the images of the visitors, while at the same time protecting the atrium from direct overhead sunlight.