“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up in Delirious New York. There is an inherited conflict when thinking about what a museum means today. On one hand, there is a need to represent, to stand out, to address the masses, on the other hand, there is an intrinsic drive to create the perfect performing machine for exhibiting art. It is precisely in this zone of conflicting forces, where architecture transcends the physical form and it almost becomes alive. Consequently, there are two classes in decoding the project: one, macro-scale, the other, local. The symbiosis results in the architecture of the spaces and in shaping the building.
The site is a very challenging one, for the obvious reasons: the proximity to the harbour, the presence of the park and waterfront, the will to orient the building towards the north and the city, the sheer size of the program that is to be fitted in the museum. An immediate reaction was that we must do the impossible and the museum should bring together the elements surrounding the site, rather than to break them apart, which would most likely be a consequence of only its presence there.
From this perspective our project could be decoded as a mixt, prefabricated and in-situ concrete structure, that would create a platform, an artificial ground for the museum to grow on; an anatomy that would connect different levels: the street, the park, the waterfront, the museum entrance; one single organism that would mold to multiple site conditions to create an above and a below and that would separate and hierarchize different types of access to the museum; a topography made of public and private open air spaces.
Apart from negotiating with the surrounding context, the platform is design to touch the ground with the smallest footprint possible, gaining this way a good connection north-south within our site and a shortcut crossing the museum from the park side to the waterfront. Protected by the concrete structure, the main lobby, opens towards the water, and in the same time connecting all four sides of the site.
Seen in a different light, the new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki is a series of spaces that accommodates art, all art: from super small, to extra large, from objects to performances. These wooden volumes, would refer to an optimal configuration dictated directly by the museum vision to exhibit art. Different in size, with movable partitioning walls, these machine like spaces, offer optimal light conditions and a wide range of possibilities in arranging different typologies of spaces according to the curators needs. There is a certain degree of autonomy, that we intentionally designed, so that, by not being just parts of a bigger thing, but almost “buildings” on their own, exhibitions can perform and function at their best in delivering an uncompromised space, flexible to accommodate any art show.