Friday18 August 2017

Michael Sorkin launches anti-Guggenheim competition for Helsinki

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Architecture critic teams up with Finnish artists and international urbanists to launch ideas contest

The architect and writer Michael Sorkin has teamed up with a group of Finnish artists to launch a counter-competition in protest at Helsinki’s plans to build a £105 million Guggenheim gallery.

The Next Helsinki contest is for exactly the same South Harbour site that is currently slated for a new outpost of the international art brand. A competition to find a designer for the new Guggenheim is well underway. Organiser Malcolm Reading is due to reveal the number of entries received this week.

The rival competition is open to architects and urbanists but also environmentalists, activists and poets to “suggest ways in which Helsinki and its South Harbour can be transformed for the maximum benefit of the city”.

The international panel of judges, chaired by Sorkin himself, includes Greenwich University’s head of architecture Neil Spiller, US sociologist and writer Sharon Zukin and Juhani Pallasmaa, the architect, academic and former director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture.

Organisers say they want entries to focus on the city’s actual needs with the aim of making Helsinki a more equitable and sustainable place.

They object to the Guggenheim on the grounds that the city would be giving away prime land to a foreign outfit and would then have to pay ongoing costs for the museum.

The website of co-organiser Checkpoint Helsinki, an arts group, says: “Following the success of the Guggenheim Bilbao in transforming that region’s tourist economy, many city managers have been seduced by the fantasy that a high-concept museum, designed by a starchitect, will turn around its urban fortunes in a similar way.

“Advocates of this branding formula see Helsinki as an ideal candidate for a new Guggenheim franchise. Yet the proposal has generated a public debate among Finland’s citizenry, with pro- and anti-Guggenheim sentiment running high. 

“The Next Helsinki competition aims to elevate the debate by giving voice to bold and thoughtful alternatives.”

Sorkin said: “The city is the greatest collective work of art ever conceived, and Helsinki is one of the most exquisite.

“In contrast to the anachronistic vessel of the traditional museum building the goal of the competition is to attract projects that attach artistry to all aspects of everyday urbanism.”

The deadline for submissions is March 2, 2015.




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