Advanced Design Studio: Sanders

Sanders: Helsinki

Interface: Guggenheim Helsinki


Design and Visualization



Coordinating Faculty

with Josh Dannenberg

In June 2014, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the municipal government of Helsinki announced an open, international competition to design a Guggenheim affiliate in Helsinki, Finland. A new Guggenheim Museum will expand the Guggenheim museum network, currently comprised of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice; The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is presently under construction. The Museum will showcase internationally significant modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries while also specializing in local Nordic art and architecture.

The museum building will be in close proximity to the center of the city, in the Eteläsatama, or South Harbor area, a major passenger port welcoming cruises from Stockholm, Sweden and Tallinn, Estonia. The site is 18,520 square meters and the floor area designated for the museum building is 12,100 square meters, of which 4,000 will be devoted to exhibition space. Under the agreement, the Guggenheim Foundation’s role is to provide its brand value, overall direction, oversight of programs and access to it’s collections while the City of Helsinki will be responsible for development and construction costs (estimated at 130-140 million Euros) and the annual operating fund. A $30 million licensing fee will be raised by private donations. (See competition brief here)

Plans to build a Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki began in January 2011, when the city’s mayor Jussi Pajunen committed $2.5 million in public funds for a feasibility study to explore the viability of such an institution. In May 2012, after a report called “Concept and Development Study for Guggenheim Helsinki” outlined the economic and cultural benefits of a Guggenheim affiliate, the Helsinki city board rejected the proposal by just one vote, citing cost concerns for the city. The current design competition reflects renewed efforts to develop a Guggenheim museum. But, the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland still have the final word on whether to proceed with construction after the competition concludes.

Supporters and critics are divided over this development. Those who oppose the Museum argue against the large costs to taxpayers, believe that a Guggenheim franchise will threaten Finnish culture and identity and cite setbacks that other Guggenheim affiliates have faced around the world, including the Vilnius Guggenheim Hermitage and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Spearheaded by Helsinki’s mayor Jussi Pajunen, supporters are inspired by the success of the Guggenheim Bilbao, which transformed the Basque region into a thriving tourist destination. Advocates also claim that a new museum will bring economic and cultural capital to Helsinki, heighten global visibility of Finnish art and culture, and serve as a community center for residents and tourists.

Your challenge this term will be to addresses the issues and concerns raised by both constituents even if that might means modifying or reinterpreting the official competition brief. If the Guggenheim Bilbao inaugurated the era of the photogenic iconic designed by a star-architect, Guggenheim Helsinki requires you to invent an alternative vision for an inclusive community oriented art museum that caters to regional as well as global interests.

In addition to providing an opportunity to develop a site-specific proposal for a highprofile building that is garnering international attention, the Guggenheim Helsinki provides a vehicle for us engage broad issues that are reshaping the future of the contemporary art museum and the discipline of architecture.

Interface: Integrating Landscape, Architecture and Urban Infrastructure

In contrast to the traditional art museum, typically conceived of as a temple to art indifferent to its quotidian surroundings, Guggenheim Helsinki must operate as a responsive urban sponge that absorbs a variety of environmental and infrastructural forces. Situated on a prominent harbor site adjacent to a 19th century park and a waterfront promenade, the project requires a integrated design approach that brings together people, building and landscape. In addition, the competition brief mandates that new building must replace an existing ferry terminal on the site.

Consequently the museum will double as a transit hub that absorbs networks of circulation moving at different velocities including pedestrians, bikes, cars, trucks and boats. The Guggenheim Helsinki also mandates a sustainable and climatically hospitable facility adapted to Helsinki’s short winter and long summer days.

Interdisciplinary Practice

The White Cube, a typology originally conceived for the display of abstract painting and sculpture, prevails today even though artistic practices are expanding and overlapping. Since the 1960’s artists have been harnessing new media technologies to create video, digital, sound, and interactive works that immerse viewers in multi-media environments, which collapse virtual and actual space. Meanwhile, museums and galleries stage event-based works that collapse traditional distinctions between film, dance, music and theatre. This assignment requires you to invent flexible media friendly indoor and outdoor spaces conducive to the display of old and new media that complement rather than compete with the works of art they display while at the same time transforming spectatorship into an immersive multi-sensory experience that engages eyes and bodies alike.


U.S. Tours and Meetings

Ari Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Museum and Cara Cragan, Director of Architectural Projects and a graduate of the YUAG (1999), have agreed to participate in our advanced studio with the hope that our research and out-of-the-box design thinking will shed new light on their unfolding initiative. At the beginning of the term, they will conduct a briefing session at the Guggenheim New York to share their insights from a client perspective. Both Ari and Cara will also attend final reviews.

In addition, over the course of the term we will meet with museum administrators, curators, art critics, architects and artists who will share their unique perspectives on the future of the 21st century contemporary art museum. We will also conduct behind-the-scenes tours of Yale University Art Gallery, the British Center for Art, the New Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

Helsinki and Stockholm

The studio will travel to Helsinki and its environs from September 20 to 27, an opportunity to explore and analyze the project site and meet with key representatives of Helsinki’s artistic and architectural community. In Helsinki we will meet with students and teachers of the Aalto University of Art and Design, who have partnered with the Guggenheim on the competition project. We will also visit buildings designed
by modernist masters like Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto as well as contemporary architects like Steven Holl, ALA Architects, and Avanto Architects. If our schedule permits, we will take the overnight ferry to Stockholm.



Concept and Development Study, 2011

Proposal, 2013

Competition Guidelines, 2014

Other Downloads and Images


Vogel, Carol. “Guggenheim Considers a Museum in Helsinki.” The New York Times, January 18, 2011.

Ruoppila, Sampo and Panu Lehtovouri. “Guggenheim Helsinki: Landing-site For Franchised Culture.” Domus, March 7, 2012.

Vogel, Carol. “Helsinki City Board Votes Against a Guggenheim Helsinki.” The New York Times, May 2, 2012.

Saarikoski, Saska. “How Did the Guggenheim Helsinki Dream go Sour?” The Guardian, May 4, 2012.

Glancey, Jonathan. “Finland Fights the Guggenheim Invasion.” The Telegraph, June 15, 2014.

Munro, Cait. “Finns Fight Proposed Guggenheim Franchise in Helsinki.” Artnet News, June 16, 2014.

Carvajal, Doreen. “Helsinki Divided on a Plan for a Guggenheim Satellite.” The New York Times, July 14, 2014.

Relevant Competitions/Projects

“The Bilbao Effect.” The Economist, December 31, 2013.

“Helsinki City Council rejects Katajonokka Hotel Project at Heated Meeting.” Helsigin Sanomat. 

“Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art.”, November 11, 2012.

Baan, Ivan. “Venice Biennale 2012: Finnish Pavilion Presents ‘New Forms in Wood.”’ Archdaily, August 22, 2012.

Furuto, Alison. “Helsinki Central Library Winning Proposal/ALA Architects.” Archdaily, June 18, 2013.

“Kilden Performing Arts Centre by ALA Architects.” Dezeen Magazine, March 30,2012.

Architecture in a Northern Climate

Decker, Julie, Modern North: Architecture on the Frozen Edge. Location: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

Pressman, Norman, Northern Cityscape: Linking Design to Climate. Winter Cities Association, 1995.

Jorma Manty and Norman Pressman. Cities Designed for Winter. The University of Michigan: 1988.

Dahl, Torben, Climate and Architecture. Routledge, 2009.

Matus, Vladimir. Design for Northern Climates: Cold-Climate Planning and Environmental Design. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Pressman, Norman. “Sustainable Winter Cities: Future Directions for Planning, Policy and Design.” Atmospheric Environment Vol 30, No. 3 (1994): 521-529.


Bosworth, Mark. “Why Finland Loves Saunas.” BBC News, September 30, 2013.

Finnish Sauna: Design, Construction and Maintenance. Rakennustieto Publishing: 1994.

Konya, Allan. Finnish Sauna. Architectural Press: 1987

Hautajarvi, Harri. Villas and Saunas in Finland. Rakennustieto Publishing: 2010.