Guggenheim Museum . Helsinki


When thinking of a new museum for the Guggenheim Foundation there are some unavoidable references to the preceding buildings, in which Architecture serves a highly-valued cultural brand and builds a symbol of identity, in the cases of NYC and Bilbao, through a singular form. The proposal for this museum also follows the trend of its predecessors, reformulating this concept with a new representation that incorporates the qualities of its location as an ambient opportunity. The addition of a new materiality completes its formal qualities and gives a meaning to this Architecture.

Where the Sun Sets
The position of the museum in the port environment implies its disassociation from the urban patterns of the city, as it approaches a landscape in which the sea and the water have a very strong presence. The scale and dynamism of the industrial constructions of the area differ from the characteristics of the cityscape: stockpiling of goods, volumes and shapes that change when the ocean liners arrive and leave, the flow of goods…
Autonomous presences with no hierarchies to which the new museum wants to incorporate.
All those elements acquire a special connotation as part of an atmosphere made of a faint, soft light with no contrast and variable reflections, thanks to its proximity to a surface of water, either in a solid or liquid state. These landscape and phenomenological qualities, as well the desire of achieving a singular and timeless form, led to the intuition of a building that consists of half a sphere. Its silky skin, placed on the dock and close to the water, and thanks to its reflections, suggests the image of a sun and of the museum as the place where the Sun sets. The reflection is required in order to complete the sphere and transmit that sensation, establishing an unbreakable relationship between the building and its surroundings.
This decision is completed by an urban-scale operation, which modifies the topography of the site in order to reach the level of LaivasinllanKatu Street and thus connect the museum with the adjacent park. By doing that, both the autonomous identity of the building and the dynamics of the port activities are maintained, while improving the continuity of this new area towards the city. This topographical transformation gives room for a big public plaza, from which the access to the new museum takes place. This entrance stands out, in a classical way, due its privileged position in relationship with the public space.
The benefits of this new configuration of the surroundings make more sense when the new Guggenheim Museum is understood as an activator of the public activity, as a greatly visible public institution which opens to the city, inviting everyone to revisit the building, not only because of its program, but also due to its power as an urban promenade, relaxation area or meeting point. This idea is reinforced by the addition, to the exhibition program, of areas for its management, a cafeteria, a museum store or a multipurpose space for rental which is incorporated to the building on the last floor.
The hemispherical shape gets the most volume from the minimum surface of envelope, thus improving both the energy efficiency of the building and its solar exposure, which is really important in these latitudes.

Considering the programmatic and formal goals for the building, understood as the general strategy of the project, the hemisphere helps to perceive the museum as a united, compact volume, as an ensemble for a highly varied program.
The strategy for the internal configuration of this volume consists of two different systems:
1. - On the ground floor, the public elements of the program are found: public atrium, ticketing and information desk, cafeteria, museum store, multipurpose room, workshop areas… By following the urban strategy, which implies taking advantage of the topographic reconfiguration of the site in order to organize these elements on different levels. Thus, the spatial relationship of these areas is enriched, not only in their internal disposition but also regarding its continuity with the new public space that has been proposed.
This topographic system helps to configure the different itineraries, combining the public ones with those of internal use, thus using the interstitial spaces to place the service areas.
2. – The rest of the floors belong to the exhibition spaces, as well as the multipurpose area, which is located on the top level. These floors consist of semicircular slabs which rotate and are superimposed to each other. This alternation gives room to successive double-heights, which are also opened to the central atrium, making it possible, thanks to this sequence, to perceive the whole hemisphere.
At the same time, the skin that surrounds the building is drilled on an area that points to the sun, creating an oculus which provides these concatenated spaces with zenithal light. This helps to establish new links with the site, also giving some references of its scale and sewing together all the areas.
With this system, both the relationship of the internal spaces between them and their contact with the surroundings are enriched, generating, at the same time, a feeling of lightness.
The different slabs are interconnected by a system of ramps, which follows the perimeter of the volume and helps to perceive its hemispherical shape from inside.
This itinerary of ramps takes the museographic organization of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and, together with the rest of the vertical systems, allows the exhibition space to be separated into independent areas.
The exhibition areas occupy these slabs with no apparent order; each display is able to reconfigure the space, dividing it and adapting it to its needs. The ceiling is equipped with all the infrastructures and systems which are required in order to arrange the rooms from a more classical layout to a more experimental one.

The sphere works on compression, the horizontal transfer of loads is compensated with the slabs, which are prestressed and naturally pull from the external structure. This allows the absence of a vertical supporting structure, reducing it to the communication cores and thus releasing the exhibition space from supporting partitions.
In order to underline and enhance the phenomenological aspects of the project, the enclosure of the building is intended to have a translucent character, a silky, light, soft aspect, almost intangible, opting for vitreous material which can also define a double skin, capable of improving the energetic behavior of the building.
From the exterior, the intention is to investigate the possibilities of translucent fiberglass resin as a plastic material that can be adapted to the hemispherical shape of the building. Prefabricated tubular pieces can be used, providing the façade of the museum with a padded texture, which blurs the shape of the hemisphere with a less-defined, softer contour.
As these pieces are hollow, they provide an additional air chamber, with is added to a thicker one, which includes the structure and improves the energetic behavior of the whole.
On the interior, small, solid pieces of glass are employed, as if they were bricks in order to adapt to the curved shape of the surface and to the different structural elements, providing also and appropriated thermal inertia.

Design Guggenheim Helsinki Competition
DJarquitectura [Diego Jiménez]
Juana Sánchez
Jorge Salguero
Francisco Marín

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