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The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition, which began in June 2014 and generated a record-making 1,715 submissions from more than 77 countries, reached its conclusion today, as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced the winning concept: a design that invites visitors to engage with museum artwork and programs across a gathering of linked pavilions and plazas organized around an interior street.
Clad in locally sourced charred timber and glass, the environmentally sensitive building would comprise nine low-lying volumes and one lighthouse-like tower, connected to the nearby Observatory Park by a new pedestrian footbridge and served by a promenade along Helsinki’s South Harbor.
“I extend the Guggenheim’s warmest congratulations to Moreau Kusunoki for having achieved the design goals of this competition with such elegance, sensitivity, and clarity,” said Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.
I also want to express our admiration and gratitude to the other five finalists and to all of the architects who participated in this competition. Rarely has such a concentration of architectural intelligence been directed at a single design challenge. Nearly two thousand designers from around the world turned their thoughts to the future of Helsinki’s South Harbor and the possibilities of a museum for the twenty-first century. By making these competition entries available online, we also have contributed an unprecedented volume of design information that is now freely available for study and use. For this reason, while the design competition has now ended, we are confident that its contribution to architectural discourse and the public imagination has only just begun.
Jury chair Mark Wigley, professor and dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, announced the decision of the competition’s 11-member international jury at a press conference held at the Palace, a landmark of 20th-century modernism that overlooks the site of the proposed museum on Helsinki’s South Harbor.
“Moreau Kusunoki has titled its proposal ‘Art in the City,’ a name that sums up the qualities the jury admired in the design,” Wigley said. “The waterfront, park, and nearby urban area all have a dialogue with the loose cluster of pavilions, with people and activities flowing between them. The design is imbued with a sense of community and animation that matches the ambitions of the brief to honor both the people of Finland and the creation of a more responsive museum of the future.”
The jury determined “Art in the City” as the winning design by a majority vote. The official jury statement, available on the competition website, notes that, “Art in the City” would cohere around a covered street that can expand and contract according to its interaction with the discrete pavilions, which are “distinctive and contemporary” in their forms and materials. “The jury found the design deeply respectful of the site and setting, creating a fragmented, non-hierarchical campus of linked pavilions where art and society could meet and intermingle.”
In observance of European Union and Finnish procurement rules, all submissions to the open competition were kept strictly anonymous throughout the process. In December 2014, the Guggenheim named the architectural teams responsible for the six finalist designs, but the teams were not matched to their entries. Moreau Kusunoki was not identified to the jury as the author of the winning design until after the selection had been made.
In a joint statement, Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki said, “Thanks to the bold vision of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the City of Helsinki, the international open competition process offered a unique challenge for practices around the world to partake in this exceptional project. Such events represent great hope for architects. We are delighted and honored to have been selected from among 1,715 entries. We are happy to share this victory with all the people we work with: our staff, our partners, and our clients. This great adventure brought us energy, joy, and dreams. The adventure now continues with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the people of Helsinki, and lovers of architecture and art.”
Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki founded Moreau Kusunoki Architectes in Paris in 2011. Kusunoki, who earned her degree from the Shibaura Institute of Technology in Tokyo, began her career in the studio of Shigeru Ban. Moreau, who trained at the Ecole Nationale d’Architecture de Belleville in Paris, worked in the studios of SANAA and Kengo Kuma. In 2008, Moreau and Kusunoki left Tokyo together, so that Moreau could open Kengo Kuma’s office in France. Notable projects undertaken by Moreau Kusunoki Architectes include the Théâtre de Beauvaisis in Beauvais, the House of Cultures and Memories in Cayenne, the Polytechnic School of Engineering in Bourget-du-Lac, and the plaza for the Paris District Court (designed by Renzo Piano) at the Porte de Clichy.
As the winner of the competition, Moreau Kusunoki will receive a cash award of €100,000 (approximately USD 109,000). An award of €55,000 (approximately USD 60,000) will be given to each of the five finalist teams: AGPS Architecture Ltd. (Zurich and Los Angeles; GH-1128435973), whose design was named runner-up by the jury; Asif Khan Ltd. (London; GH-121371443); Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (New York, Barcelona, and Sydney; GH-5059206475); Haas Cook Zemmrich STUDIO2050 (Stuttgart; GH-76091181); and SMAR Architecture Studio (Madrid and Western Australia; GH-5631681770).