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Guggenheim Helsinki

The Guggenheim Helsinki is a competition entry design by Paul Elliott, of Elliott Ngxola Architects, an ARCHICAD based architectural practice in Cape Town, South Africa.

This is an endeavour to make a place for the Helsinki people. It is a poetic interpretation of the Finnish landscape, its people and their spirit.

The Guggenheim Helsinki is a place for the visitor to experience art in the context of the harbour with connections to the city and the park providing views through the building of both sides. It is filled with natural light, interior landscaping and using natural materials it stimulates the sensual experience of architecture with its textural, tactile, aural and olfactory qualities.


Concept Description

The building is seen as a catalyst bringing together the city, the park and the port. 

The complex is seen as a city district rather than just an art gallery - proposed integration of retail and commercial space to animate. 

The notion of a front and a back. The front is designed as a promenade along the waterfront, with granite ‘islands’ and birch trees as landscape, the back as a service and access corridor with a bicycle and pedestrian route above on trestles flanked by greenery. 

The ramped piazza that connects the front, the promenade through to the park and over the service road and existing Laivasillankatu, this will be the main entrance to the museum and will be a thoroughfare through the museum much like Stuttgart’s Staatsgalerie by James Stirling. 
Extend the existing activity corridor from the market square along Etalantara and along the waterside of the site to the Olympia terminal with a landscaped route with retail space spilling out onto the waterside promenade creating a continuos edge. 

Create a ‘Piazza’ on the park side which is the west entry to the Guggenheim. The building rises from a single story on the north end to a central four storey high atrium, 18m high, which is the heart of the museum, and ends with a four storey high office block forming the edge onto the port terminal area. Keeping a low profile the roof is considered as a fifth elevation as it is looked down upon from above. 

The building consists of a granite clad plinth on top of which is a timber structure of columns and beams imitating the forest metaphor. The plinth houses all the support and service facilities while the forest of columns above house the naturally lit galleries which step up at 1.5m increments from the north to the central gallery which sits on top of the museum hub which is on the route through from the waterfront to the park forming a town square from which the galleries, performance and multi-purpose spaces can be easily reached. The shop and cafe/bar are located on the park side on either side of the piazza while the restaurant is on the waterside offering spectacular views over the harbour above the classroom/laboratory. Collections storage and management, maintenance, loading and the kitchen are at the back off the service road. The office space is integrated into the four storey block facing the port terminal ground on the south. This block could house additional office space for rental or house the port terminal building or could accommodate further galleries. 

A pentagonal geometry, derived from plant shapes is used as the ordering geometry. Aalto found natures patterns intuitively, others like Utzon used a more structured method to achieve organic form, he called it additive architecture, cellular growth. 

The clear separation of the galleries and the natural light that all have will make for special exhibition space. The galleries step up from the north and are compartmentalised and accessible from a linear lobby that runs parallel to the promenade on the west side with views onto the harbour. One can access the galleries at different points along this linear lobby which will be landscaped with winter gardens. 

Most of the museum is built using timber. Photovoltaic roof covering to save energy. ETFE cushion domes act as an insulating blanket.

The timber construction allows for a fast construction time.

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