Guggenheim Museum, Helsinki

Cityscape and Site:
Our proposal for Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki focuses on site specific response that creates a strong link between the place and the rest of the cityscape.
Understanding of the place:
Our approach starts with an understanding of the site, both in geographical and cultural terms. Presence of the wooded historic hilltop park, Tahtitornin Vuori Park on the south west of the site provides a natural backdrop to the proposed museum. The Market Square on the northern side provides a direct view and pedestrian access towards the park and the museum site. The site being in the South Harbor area of Helsinki is highly visible from the surrounding waterfront.The Museum site is surrounded by many buildings which are either important landmarks or they are of great historic significance such as the Palace Hotel on the North West tip of the site, Helsinki Cathedral, Old Market hall, Uspenski Cathedral to the north, Olympia Terminal on the southern side, the Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture to the western side accessible through Tahtitornin Vuori Park.

The following parameters were considered to ensure that the proposed museum complex would not only fit into the urban fabric comfortably but also resonates the design principles of the existing cityscape:
1. Urban grid of the city and Axis.
2. Ground Plane
3. Public Plaza / Arrival Court
4. Port Connectivity
5. Quayside and extension of Public Realm
6. Promenade along Laivasillankatu road
7. Building height and Massing
8. Pedestrian link to the Park

Design Sketches

Panel 1

  1. Axis: (Figure ii.)
    The site being oriented along NW and SE direction creates an axis along the other grid of the city which bisects the NS grid predominant around the museum site. The NS axis between the Market Square and the Park intersects the axis along NW and SE direction(harbor edge) which acts as a confluence of the civic/urban life and its cultural precinct. This intersection has prompted us to propose a grand public plaza / arrival court.
    2. Ground: (Figure iii & iv)
    The entire ground level gradually slopes upto 1.5mts from the existing site level starting from the Northern tip of the site. This enables a clear headroom of 5.5mts for the goods vehicle under the first plinth of the museum which is 7mts higher than the existing site level. The proposed Ground floor will be at 3.6mts from the harbor sea level.
    3. Plaza/Arrival court: (Figure iii, iv & vi)
    The public plaza at the intersection of the two grids can be accessed straight from the Market Square to its north and it will be defined by the low plinth of the museum building, sloping terrain of the Tahtitornin Vuori Park to its southern side,  Palace Hotel and an office building to its west, waterfront to its east. The Plaza will predominantly be hardscaped and finished in locally available stone. We also propose to extend the flooring beyond the confines of the site boundary and extend the same all the way to the Esplanadi Park along the NW and SE axis which not only notionally connects the two but also will enable people to trace their way to the museum along the axis.
    4. Port connectivity:  (Figure iii)
    A 10 mts wide heavy goods vehicular access in and out of the port to the south of the site has been proposed parallel to the Laivasillankatu road 75mts away from the Harbor edge. Vehicles enter the site from the north along Laivasillankatu road and goes under the first plinth of the museum to the port on the southern side of the site.
    5. Quayside :  (Figure  iii, iv & vii )
    The public plaza extends along the harbor edge (Quayside) allowing the pedestrians to access the public facilities such as cafe / bar / book shops on the ground level of the museum facing the waterfront. The 15mts wide Quayside being 1.5mts higher than the existing site level allows us to create a number of outdoor sitouts along its edge without altering the quayside edge condition. The stepped seating notionally takes people close to the water. The Quayside has been designed not only as an extension of the ground floor public realm, but the controlled intervention will permit smooth port operations and maintenance.
    6. Promenade :  (Figure iii, v & ix)
    The western edge of the museum complex lower plinth is set in from the Laivasillankatu road by a distance varying from 3mts on the Northern tip to 13mts on its southern tip thereby allowing a very pleasant promenade finished in stone flooring and softscape to mitigate the height difference between the road level and lower plinth. Since the plinth is set in, the relatively high plinth will not be overwhelming to the pedestrians and cyclists. The lower plinth is connected to the promenade by a ramp thereby connecting the southern edge of the building to Laivasillankatu road. This promenade can also be extended further to the southern side and join the proposed Pedestrian deck outside Olympian Terminal.
    7. Building Height : (Figure iv)
    The proposed building is nearly double the width of the Quayside(15mts) at 32mts to the tip of the sloped roof. The building height and the proportion has been worked out to ensure that the silhouette of the proposed museum merges easily with the existing cityscape and adjacent buildings.
    8. Pedestrian Link to the Park:  (Figure v & ix)
    The proposed museum is connected to Tahtitornin Vuori Park at its second floor level through a pedestrian bridge. The bridge connects the park at a level of 10mts from the existing site level and takes the visitors to the service block of the museum to its SW corner. This service core allows people to access both the plinth levels of the museum. The second plinth (roof of the grand floor gallery) serves as a secondary plaza for temporary installations and public functions.

Figure showing the extension of pavement all the way to Esplanadi park through existing buildings showing the connection between the two public realms and a notion for visitors to trace the same.                        

Panel 2

“On how buildings can integrate and merge with the existing surroundings, making their architecture a synthesis of the enigmas and contradictions posed by a place.”
– Rafael Moneo, Remarks on 21 Works.

In approaching the design for the new Guggenheim Museum in South Harbor of  Helsinki, Finland, we derived our inspiration from the urban fabric of the port city of Helsinki. Our proposal is based on following aspects:
1. Extension of Public Realm:
Our agenda is to design the museum as an extension of the existing public realm on the northern side of the site , i.e., the Market Square, the Senate Square, the Esplanadi park and establish a connection with the cultural precinct of the neighbourhood on to the western side of the Museum site, i.e., the Finnish Museum of Architecture, Design Museum across Tahtitornin Vuori Park. This has been achieved by creating an arrival plaza on the northern side of the site which further extends around the museum on other three sides as well – Quayside, the southern side looking towards the Olympia Terminal and the promenade along Laivasillankatu road. A proposed bridge takes the pedestrians from the park to the secondary Plaza on the roof of the Grand gallery at first floor level.
2. Scale :
The buildings around the site are linear and relatively robust masses of around 25mts to 30mts height with light wells in the center to make optimum use of the sunlight. Taking cues from the surrounding buildings, we propose a linear mass of 90mts length and 24mts width with the maximum height to the tip of the building being 32mts from the road level placed on a wider base. However, this mass has been pushed away from the office building across the site and flushed with the eastern edge on Quayside to subdue the visual impact of the built mass from Laivasillankatu road side and allow an uninterrupted view to and from the park. The overall massing shows three clear datums. The first datum is the 4.5mts tall plinth formed by the ground floor roof. The second datum is established by the roof of the first floor Grand gallery and Black Box which is set in from the edge of lower plinth by a distance of  15mts on its North, 12.5 mts on its West and 18mts on its Southern side. The second Datum establishes a secondary Plaza at a height of 10.5mts from the Ground Level which can be used as outdoor installation and event space. The secondary Plaza has been given a dimension by adding a service block to its south thereby defining the physical extent of the same and giving a termination to the grand plaza. The super structure accomodating other gallery spaces sits on top of the secondary plaza level. However the Quayside of the museum though clearly establishes the three datums, sits flushed with the edge of the built mass providing an institutional scale to the complex. Considering this side of the building will be viewed by people approaching the South Harbor on a cruise ship or ferries, the skewed site edge with respect to the Market Square provides a direct view to the eastern side of the building. The proposed building sits comfortably in the urban fabric.
3. Architecture of the place:
“ In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can counteract the waste of forms and meanings.”
Peter Zumthor.
Historically, timber and stone were the primary construction material and our proposal suggests to revive the same and make use of the abundantly available timber primarily as an applicant material such as flooring , cladding or timber louvers. We derive our inspiration from the traditional timber houses with gabled roofs and the neo classical buildings with wide heavy base such as the Parliament House. The proposed design simplifies the timber house prototype with lean to roof for the super structure galleries with its slope oriented towards Southern side to capture maximum amount of light and solar energy. The wide plinth provides a solid base to which the lighter timber clad gallery blocks are anchored to. Our approach has been to capture subtle cues  from the past to derive a language which not only coexists with the architectural heritage of the city but also reinvigorates the cityscape.         
4. Visual Connectivity:
A museum building being primarily introvert in nature does not allow much of interaction with its surrounding. Our approach has been to open up the museum from inside out at strategic locations primarily in the public areas so that the visitors are visually connected to the beautiful landscape and waterfront even when they are inside the building. We have achieved this by placing the public facilities such as cafe, bar, kiosks, book shops and visitor’s center at the ground floor level, a viewing deck and museum shop at the first floor level on the Quayside. The insulated glazed facade of the southern side connects the museum shop and museum lobby to the Olympia terminal and the western side connects the Grand Gallery to the Tahititornin Park. The linear mass of the upper floor galleries are stratified vertically with 3mts wide glazed boxes at regular intervals . This acts as the light well much as the building typologies in Helsinki and allows visitors to always remain connected to the outside.
5. Outdoor spaces in extreme weather condition:
Much of the outdoor spaces on the first plinth and the secondary plaza is shielded from the cold and heavy sea breeze through out the year thereby inducing a micro climate to these outdoor spaces . The secondary plaza having being protected from the cold breeze and opening out to the western sun and the beautiful landscape of the park would encourage outdoor activities in most part of the year.
6. Organization of the Programme:
Our proposal clearly distinguishes the individual programs through both formal expression and zoning. The entire program has been classfied under three primary verticals – Public , Administrative and Gallery Spaces. Due to nature of the program, both security and active public participation and interaction has to be strongly addressed. We therefore propose to house all administrative spaces including offices, museum storage and managment , maintenance and operations, mechanical rooms, art and general docking bay in the western side and southern side at the ground level. The eastern side (Quay side) at the ground level and the first floor level becomes a public realm and the visitors can access the museum complex from the northern side both from the ground level or the first floor level and walk through the viewing deck along the Quayside , pass through the atrium, the museum shop and exit from the southern side. The middle block of the superstructure becomes the atrium and acts as a teaser to the visitors giving a glimpse of the installations hung into this huge space. The Grand gallery on the western side is a 6 mts tall exhibition space which again connects the museum visitors to the beautiful park across Laivasillankatu road. Other gallery spaces are accomodated in the 4 independent masses along the Quayside. The first block facing north has a restaurant on the fourth floor and can be accessed independantly from the common lobby for the Black box on the ground level or from the top level of the museum. The North west corner facing the main plaza accomodates the black box and its ancillary functions. The siting of the performance area in this part of the building allows it to extend out to the plaza on all three levels.

Panel 4

“Sustainability is a practice of maintaining processes of productivity indefinitely – natural or manmade by replacing used resources with resources of equal or greater value without degrading or endangering natural biotic life.”
Melvin K. Hendrix , Design for Ecology Resiliency Smashwoods, ebook, 2014
In other words, Sustainable Development is one that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
There are three very different but interdependent categories under which the issue of sustainable development can be addressed.
– Social Sustainability
– Economic Sustainability
– Environmental Sustainability
In the vast array of issues that sit beneath the banner of sustainability, it is very important to deliver the “real and meaningful solution” in the world of construction. Hence, our aim is to look at this issue more holistically,in a more constructive and meaningful manner.
A building of this scale and nature has to marry its physical realm with the social world, i.e., the design of the infrastructure has to support the social and cultural life, has to engage people with its physical and metaphysical components, to cultivate and inspire high quality of living – intellectually and economically. The proposed design is an attempt to infuse texture of public spaces not only all around the built mass but also at different levels over first three floors. The public spaces has been worked out to coexist along with the private galleries and work areas without disturbing the sanctity of theses spaces yet blurring the boundaries between the private and the public spaces. Our intention has been to introduce certain degree of porosity  between the exhibition space and the public space to constantly engage people on both sides of the space.
Our understanding of economic sustainability with regards to this project is to ensure that the proposed design not only uses local materials thereby giving a boost to the local economy of the place (micro economy), but at the same it also ensures the ease of construction through techniques developed more locally. This will help in generating more jobs locally and keep a check on the overall cost of construction, cost of transportation of material and decrease in the level of pollution caused by the transportation.
The climate of the region is very challenging characterized by stong winds, high humidity (being in maritime location), cycles of freezing and thawing. It places great demand on structural stability and durability of materials. As part of the design process, we have looked into aspects that addresses energy consumption, transportation of construction materials, materials used in construction, preventing light and noise pollution, passive heating solutions.
We have considered various factors while designing the museum for passive energy solutions. (Figure i)
1. Micro climate on secondary plaza: (Figure vii)
The gallery blocks in the superstructure is oriented along NW and SE along the port edge. This shields the secondary plaza on the western side from the heavy sea breeze and would create a micro climate conducive to outdoor activities during most part of the year. The roof of the grand gallery being exposed to the western sun will help in accumulating the heat from sun which will add to the passive heating system of the space.
2. Geo thermal Heating System: (Figure ii)
The entire private area and the main public realm of the museum has been confined in the ground level, thereby keeping the largely habitable spaces close to the ground. This allows us to exploit the passive heating through geo thermal heating mechanism. It also helps in keeping the habitable areas away from the cold wind from sea side. Heat pumps can help to make good use of the high potential offered by environmental energies( geothermal, exhaust air , ground water). A heat pump operates on the same principle as a refrigerator, drawing energy from an environmental medium for heating and cooling.
The ground heat is transmitted via a heat exchanger to the water circuit of the pump  and with the assistance of solar-powered circuits in geo thermal probes (> 100m depth), heat exchangers (approx. 3m depth) or coiled loop fields (2-3m depth). It is particularly effective if the electricity needed is generated from a renewable source i.e. , photovoltaics or wind.
3. Solar Energy: (Figure iv)
The electricity required to support the geo thermal heating systems can be provided by trapping solar energy . Our proposal makes it feasible to mount solar panels on the lean to roof of the 6 independent blocks of the superstructure. The roof slopes towards the southern side thereby allowing the photovoltaic panels to collect maximum amount of solar radiation.
4. High degree of Insulation: (Figure v)
Because of cold climate, it is extremely important to provide good thermal insulation using glass wool, foam glass, rockwool, wood fibres, expanded polystyrene, etc. This can be done using multi- layer wall construction. Insulation protects against heat losses from the inside.
5. Wall plinth heating : (Figure vi)
“Andrea Deplazes (ED.), Constructing Architecture, Materials Processes Structures, A Handbook”
The simplified version of hypocaust method of heating by radiation (controlled movement of hot air) invented by Romans has been used in Marktoberdorf gallery of contemporary arts by Bearth+Deplazes using two circuits of water filled copper pipes integrated into the masonry walls just above each floor level to act as a heat transport medium. A conventional oil fired boiler generates the heat for this system. The water in the pipe can also be heated by geo thermal method as mentioned in point 2.
6. Optimum use of natural light: (Figure iii)
In our endeavour to make optimum use of natural light to illuminate the public areas  and galleries we have proposed light wells much as in the existing building typologies of Helsinki and skylights to allow indirect diffused lights into the gallery spaces. The public areas and the grand gallery has insulated curtain wall to allow the natural light to pass through and prevent heat loss from inside the building.

Construction Feasibility :
In our quest to arrive at a contextually suitable design for Guggenheim Museum, we propose a simple building with complex spaces and great experiential quality which encourages social interaction and also allows people to enjoy the scenic beauty around the site.
The Museum complex has two large horizontal masses forming the two plinths constructed in Fibre reinforced concrete structure with large column free spaces. Insulated curtain wall on three sides of the first floor allows uninterrupted view of the surrounding areas.
Taking cues from the Neo Classical buildings of Helsinki, we propose to clad the walls and floors of these two horizontal masses in locally avaible stones, thereby creating a heavy base to which the visually lighter gallery blocks are anchored to.
The  6 blocks forming the superstructure will be constructed in 2 layers of masonry seperated with a layer of insulation and cladded with timber louver.
The port access being on the periphery of the site along Laivasillankatu road will be easily accessible without hindering the port operations.

Project TypeInternational Competition to design museum
ClientSolomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Plot Area1,20,000 sq.ft