The new Guggenheim Helsinki is both grounded in its Finnish urban, geographic, and cultural context and a place set apart from the city for creative and intellectual inquiry. The design of the museum acknowledges this dual mission with its perimeter gallery-wall that contains a forested sculpture park.
The building is experienced from the outside as a restrained stone volume whose material presence and form relate to the nearby port and nineteenth-century architecture of Ullanlinna. The inward-focused gallery-wall blocks all but a few carefully orchestrated views of the city and harbor. Flexible gallery spaces line a gentle ramp encircling a birch forest. This enclosed landscape contains art, performance space, and timber-clad pavilions housing the non-gallery functions of the museum.

The museum’s architecture places it within the context of Eteläsatama’s urban conditions while supporting, sheltering, and displaying the Guggenheim’s creative culture.
Echoing the scale and form of the port structures, the museum occupies the entire site with a single-story stone perimeter wall containing gallery spaces. While the museum’s street presence is relatively opaque, its low massing does not interrupt views across the water from higher ground. The ground level galleries of the museum are inward-looking, protecting the contemplative space of the museum from the distractions of port traffic and development.
From the elevated vantage points of Tähtitorninvuoren park and the pedestrian path, the interior forest and pavilions are revealed, echoing both Ullanlinna’s courtyard buildings and its iconic cultural buildings set in Romantic parks. Within this courtyard, the pavilions rise above the wall, framing long views of the harbor and Helsinki landmarks.

The visitor experience of the gallery-wall provides a slower, gentler version of the spiral ramp in Wright’s New York Guggenheim. Visitors enter the ramp at street level, looking up into the birch forest canopy. Midway along the ramp, the rise in grade allows access to the park. At the end of the ramp, the retail space is above the landscape, looking down onto it and the objects it contains.
Among the trees and sculptures, four timber pavilions contain the theater, café, office tower, and multipurpose room. While the park accommodates a variety of artistic practices, the autonomous pavilion forms play on the historic conception of the museum as container for objects. Inspired by De Chirico’s paintings, the composition of objects within the contained field creates a variety of spatial conditions, while the absence of true horizontal planes destabilizes views within the forest.

The Guggenheim Helsinki works within Finland’s architectural heritage of forward-looking design tempered by sensitivity to the local landscape and climate. Responses to the building’s environment are embedded in the materials and geometries of the structures and landscape.
The park’s landscape and roofscape collect and reuse water via a collection system. The perimeter wall protects the interior from ocean winds and port noise. North-facing clerestory glazing collects daylight. The pavilions’ structure, cladding, and interior finishes are sustainable Finnish timber. The birch trees mitigate air and sound pollution from the port and support the effect of the museum interior being a place of artistic discovery apart from its urban waterfront context.

doubled de Chirico
Objects within contained field: doubled de Chirico


Aerial view 

Floor plan 

Interior view - from gallery 

Long section 

Short sections 

Interior view - from retail 

Guggenheim NYC vs Helsinki 

Exterior view 

Interior view - entry & event space 

Exterior view 

Isometric - interior forest 

Interior view - from forest/court 

Isometric - museum program 

Pavilion 1/Cafe - elev & section 

Pavilion 2/Office - elev & section 

Pavilion 3/Theater - elev & section 

Pavilion 4/Event - elev & section 

Interior view - from gallery