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Helsinki, Finland | 2014
Architects: XTEN Architecture
Client: Guggenheim Helsinki
Client: Malcolm Reading Consultants
The project proposes the museum a landscape form that extends an adjacent park like a hillside down to the water’s edge. A planted bridge connects the museum to the park and bisects the building in section. This path becomes a sloping park framed by the public spaces of the museum. The sloping park then spills into more public spaces at the quayside as the museum extends to the boardwalk and the boardwalk extends up and through the museum.
The museum operates like a network that draws connections from its surroundings in and through the building. The sloped museum park is the extension of the adjacent Tahtitornin vuori/ mountain park. As one passes beneath the building the landscape continues as a gently undulating hill, extending out to the city and waterfront. The massing of the main building is pushed up against the service roads, a thin volume that creates a natural amphitheater and gathering space between the museum and the waterfront.
From the main park level one can access the entrances to both the museum and the performance/ conference hall. Here the café and restaurant also open out onto the park with views over the waterfront. The configuration of the building embraces one at this level, providing a buffer to the Southerly docks and framing views to the city and harbor.
The roofscape was developed as skylight cones to capture the low Nordic light for the galleries below. From the exterior their forms recall the regional mountains and frame long vistas from the park to the harbor.
Natural and diffused light enters the galleries from a variety of skylights. The skylight cones are conceived as a multilayered system that captures the sunlight and redirects it with custom shaped louvers onto sloping walls. Light plaster walls and whitewashed wood surfaces create a luminous and diffused light for the galleries.
The configuration of the galleries is based on a flexible 10mx10m grid. Two larger gallery spaces anchor the main gallery level, with the Project Room at the Southeast corner and a triple height Main Gallery with a glass wall facing the City at the North end of the building. Museum administration is located on the main entrance level, while storage, conservation, shipping and handling of the artworks is located adjacent to the main dock level at the lower level. The Passenger Terminal, other museum entrances and parking are also located on this lower level. A required harbor service road flanks the East elevation of the building.
The project is conceived in stone, wood, bronze, copper and glass, crafted at the highest level. The exterior of the museum is clad in locally quarried pale granite, fabricated as dimensional tiles and installed in a shingled pattern. Specific areas of the façade like the conference hall/ performance space will be translucent. The stonework will meet the timber decking installed as walkways in the sloping museum park, which will extend both across the sculpture bridge to Tahtitornin vuori park and down to the market square and waterfront boardwalk. The timber flooring continues from the exterior walkway to the interior of the museum, where light oak wide plank floors are used throughout the galleries, offices, cafes and public spaces. The interiors are finished in woods of various species and finishing techniques dependent on their use.
The building is conceived as sustainable architecture. The roofscape harvests the Nordic sunlight for maximum use in the building, obviating the need for electric lighting loads during the daytime, All offices and service areas will have extensive and operable glazing for natural passive ventilation and cooling. Heating will be integrated into the structural slabs with radiant hydronic systems. Rainwater from the rooftops and Museum Park will be collected and re-used for maintenance purposes. The exterior stone walls will have a layered solar thermal assembly – absorbing the sunlight during the day to release into the building for heating during evening hours.
The primary structural system is a hybrid of heavy timber framing and reinforced concrete slabs, with secondary timber framing for all the interiors. The structural strategy itself is very efficient: the main walls and grid lines all align and stack through three levels, and the trapezoidal skylight forms, while each unique, share the efficiency of having compression beams at the top and bottom of each cone which minimizes material and allows for a lightweight roof structure.
The intention is for the proposal to work at every scale. At a macro scale, the use patterns of the adjacent areas and programs are drawn through and embedded into the organization of the building, which appears as a landscape at the water’s edge. At the scale of the program spaces each area is free to be developed uniquely in form, light and materiality. At the detail level, the use of natural materials fabricated with modern and traditional techniques will ensure an enduring work of architecture.