Yale School of Architecture | Studio Joel Sanders | Feldman Nomination | 2014


Responding to the Finnish artist community’s critique of the Guggenheim as an elitist institution, this project extends the program of the museum with education to both make it relevant to the local community, and  bridge the gap between art and the everyday.

Instead of using the Guggenheim brand to create monumentality and iconicity that is disconnected from the Finnish cultural heritage and risks reducing Helsinki to a one liner, this project ties into the low, courtyard-filled urban fabric of the city. The pavilions and courtyards respond both to the islands and plazas that define Helsinki’s urbanism and the graceful non-monumentality of the city.

The striated landscape connects the market and the ferry terminal, and  responds to the two different sides of the site. It is crenulated at the water, continuing the language of the bays at the shoreline, while its linear edge facing the park defines the boundary of the site. The undulating landscape creates elevated viewing platforms, sunken gardens and pools presenting a transition between the waterfront and the park.

The nested volumes of the five pavilions allow for a seamless insertion of new program. An education hub, multi-media projection rooms, artist residency and library at the core of each pavilion is flanked by an ancillary ring of exhibition spaces which transition into the unticketed exhibition spaces. This interstitial space -  the ‘container’ - links the pavilions and encloses courtyards in the interior of the building. The fifth pavilion, the ferry terminal, is linked to the building with a canopy. The strategy of nesting is also used in the section; each nested volume within the pavilions is lowered in section, prompting a gradual descent into the central, and most intimate core. The contrast between the programmed pavilions and the open ‘container’ linking them prompts free meandering and fosters an active, self-curated engagement with art.

The project responds to Helsinki’s extreme climate and lighting conditions. In summer, the curtain walls of the interstitial ‘container’ can be opened, allowing the nested volumes to read as pavilions - individual buildings in the striated landscape. In winter, when there are only two hours of daylight, the building becomes introverted. Thick felt curtains turn the cold, black glass into a warm surface, and the illuminated courtyards become the life of the building. The nesting also works as a temperature buffer, as climate is more controlled at the core of the pavilions.