The new Guggenheim Helsinki
Conceived as an extension of Helsinki’s public urban space, the building design amplifies the harbour surface into a dynamic public event and exhibition landscape, that seamlessly connects the different areas of the surrounding site with open public exhibition areas. Solid white exhibition boxes float on this landscape arranged like a “village” around a vibrant central plaza reflecting the urban scale of Helsinki’s city scape. State of the art circulation, energy and structural concepts reinforce this urban idea and inform it into a unique architectural design.
The combination of soft landscapes with solid architecture, the use of diffuse natural daylight with wooden ceilings and the openness from and towards it’s context integrate local thoughts and traditions in the construction and the perception of the building.
Following general organization and accessibility standards, an extension of Helsinki’s public urban space rises as a landscape surface from a lower foyer on the north side up and towards a central plaza plateau, offering a grand event and exhibition space for large scale sculptures and installations. This elevated plateau where circulation and exhibition areas merge seamlessly into each other is surrounded by seven “floating” white boxes creating a vibrant central plaza while opening dedicated views towards the city the park and the harbour.
The outside decks of the landscape (except the central roof) are walkable and offer seating and relaxing areas around the main entrance. The landscape surface also continues along the quayside as a public promenade with great elevated views over the harbour. The optional bridge to Tahititornin Vuori park provides a barrier free connection all the way along the quay between South Harbour and the park.
The light boxes contain the dedicated exhibition spaces, the shop and the bar and restaurant areas. All are accessible from the landscape walking up through spatially unique cuts in their soffit. From within every box an easy guided path with bridges brings visitors through all exhibition floors of the boxes. Every box is also separately accessible by stairs and elevators to allow various exhibition concepts and configurations. The tops are equipped with light ceilings to allow the use diffuse natural light for the dedicated exhibition spaces. Also the “exterior” surfaces of the boxes inside of the main hall can be used as “displays” for all kinds of installations and art pieces. Two of the Boxes have outdoor exhibition “balconies” while the rooftop of the bar and shop box in the north, orientated towards the city can be used as an outdoor exhibition platform.
Other public functions like the visitor services, the event space and the project space are arranged around the lower foyer on the north and can therefore also be used separately from the museum spaces.
All service areas related to storage, delivery, maintenance, technical spaces and the optional ferry terminal are located below the public landscape. Office spaces are arranged along the west elevation to provide natural daylight and pleasant views towards the park for all workplaces.
The main access to the building is the grand entrance on the waterfront looking north towards the old Market Hall and the Esplanadi. Coming from Eteläranta/Eteläinen Makasiinikatu junction the vip, disabled and taxi drop-off area is located right next to the bicycle parking on the northwest side. The whole part is covered by the landscape surface, which serves as a rain and sun protection for this area. The loading dock is integrated in the south elevation avoiding any interference with public traffic and access to the port. The design allows two 18m trucks with trailer to park next to each other without blocking any traffic on or off site. Additionally there is space for another two smaller trucks or vans to deliver smaller goods and catering.
Complementing the architectural design intent, the structural concept merges functional, aesthetic, and economic aspects of the main building parts. The roof covering the public plaza spans up to thirty meters between the exhibition boxes and is supported at its edges touching the landscape and the building volumes. An optimized grid of steel beams follows the directionality of the boxes as well as the roof’s boundaries, while still exhibiting a high degree of regularity and repetition to rationalize the construction of the partly free-formed roof. The beam’s dimensions of up to 300x1500x3500 mm are sized for maximum utilization of each element, such that the structural mechanisms become readable and at the same time support the transparency of the roof’s light-bands around the boxes where the cross sections are smallest. The boxes of reinforced concrete are supported by their cores and various spots when meeting the landscape, resulting in different geometric boundary conditions within the same structural system: the pre-stressed prefab hollow-core slabs are a highly economic solution for large spans in orthogonal plans, while being able to transfer the cantilevers’ shear forces from the in-situ concrete walls back to the cores and extra supports. The shaped landscape is built in a system of semi-prefab concrete beam- and plate-elements serving as a lost formwork, which are then refined with in-situ cast to get the final shape.
Environmental, energy and building services concept
From an energy standpoint there are essentially two different environments in the building: the fully mechanically controlled exhibition, storage and art handling spaces, and the naturally ventilated, semi-controlled areas, which include the grand foyer on the landscape (buffer space), the offices and all the public functions like the store and café, the restaurant and the event space.
In the fully controlled areas the ventilation system controls the air supply. In the exhibition area the inlet system is displacement ventilation through the floor. The environments in the exhibition area are controlled by air, there are no water systems in the exhibition space. The make-up and volume of the supply air to the exhibition areas is controlled by a computer system; this allows to ensure the correct temperature and humidity at all times. In the service areas will have a mixed ventilation. The museum will be provided with district heating from Helsinki. The building is equipped with solar panels on the roof. The panels will supply the building with heat during spring and autumn. The panels will reduce the environmental impact from the building.
The cooling system is a traditional system with a compressor, but the condenser is cooled with seawater. The exhibition areas have natural diffuse daylight but can also be artificially lit. In the foyer there will be a combination of natural light and artificial light. The light level in the building is controlled by a computer system. No direct sunlight will impact the exhibition spaces.
The museum is supplied with electricity from Helsinki’s energy supply, supplemented by roof mounted photovoltaic cells. The photovoltaic cells will reduce the environmental impact from the building.
The museum is equipped with a fire alarm and theft prevention system and internal TV monitoring. The system will be adapted to the use of the museum.
Rainwater harvesting from the roof will also be used to reduce the consumption of fresh water.
The building will meet the requirements of at least Leed Gold standards.
The landscape and roof surface is build with basic rectangular concrete tiles with a standard size of 1.2 by 0.6m. Where the surface has a stronger curvature the tiles are subdivided in two steps to sizes of 0.6 by 0.3m and 0.3 by 0.15m. Different types of surface finishes give a guidance of their supposed functionality without being strict, i.e. public circlualtion areas have a high polished surface while exhibition and relaxing areas gradually turn into rougher finishes. Lounge areas, restaurants and playgrounds have fixed furniture, such as benches and platforms. Surfaces of these areas have a different materiality which is more soft and darker in color.
The roof soffit is made of suspended fire resistant wood elements (either louver profiles or perforated wood panels) with a slight spacing to reveal parts of the construction system. Lights and MEP (ventilation, sprinklers, etc…) are integrated in and behind the ceiling soffit. The tiling system follows the curvature of the landscape with a 3 step subdivision to create a clear background with a subtle dynamic.
The functional exhibition boxes consist of a backlit facade with white perforated fiber concrete panels. It is the purpose to dissolve the hard box shape with a soft and mat white shiny ephemeral surface. The perforated pattern reveals itself especially in the evening and at night when the backlit panels create a stronger contrast.
The façade is made of colorless sun protection glass. Profiles and mullions are supposed to be as thin as possible to preserve generous areas for lookouts. Around the boxes, there is a 2m wide light gap cut into the roof surface. Sunlight is transported and reflected along the white box surface into the public area beneath the roof.
Additional interior surfaces are the walls, floors and ceilings of the inside spaces of the boxes and are all soft white in different color gradients. The sound and light locks, as far as existing, are dark and mat. All office areas are standard white.