Project aims to create one of the largest custom design and architecture museums in Europe on historic waterfront site

Helsinki South Harbour 2024

Site earmarked for the museum on Helsinki’s historic South Harbour

An international architectural competition has been launched to design a £90m (EUR €105m) museum in Helsinki dedicated to architecture and design.

The landmark building on the historic waterfront at South Harbour in the Finnish capital is aiming to be the largest bespoke design museum in Europe, and one of the largest in the world.

It will replace former plans for a Guggenheim museum designed by French-Japanese practice Moreau Kusunoki which were scrapped by the city council in 2016 after locals objected to such a significant site being given to a global brand.

The new scheme, which is expected to have around 10,050sq m of floor space, will combine the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Design Museum Helsinki into a single national museum for architecture and design.

It will contain over 900,000 artefacts encompassing the history of Finnish and Nordic architecture and design, including objects, correspondence, models and photographs.

The two-stage competition, launched this morning at the Finnish embassy in London, has been organised by state-owned real estate firm ADM, founded specifically to develop the museum, along with the combined architecture and design museums and the city of Helsinki.

Finnish ambassador

The competition being launched this morning at the Finnish embassy in London by Finnish ambassador to the UK, Jukka Siukosaari

A competition seminar will be held on 24 April, followed by a period in May when entrants can ask questions which will be answered on the competition website. The closing date for submissions is 29 August.

> Also read: Helsinki launches international competition to masterplan historic harbour district

A final shortlist will be announced in December, with finalists to be given an honorarium of €50,000 in two instalments: €30,000 at the beginning of Stage 2 and €20,000 on completion. 

Finalists will submit stage two submissions by May 2025 before the results are announced in September. 

At the end of the competition the jury will award prizes of €50,000, €35,000 and €25,000 for first, second and third place, with purchase options of €20,000 for the remaining two designs. 

The building itself has been given leeway to exceed local 18m height restrictions for the harbour site due to its status as an important public building, although it must be deferential to the city’s Helsinki and Uspenski cathedrals.

Kaarina Gould, chief executive of The Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design, said the development team wants the museum to “democratise the tools of design”.

“The new museum of architecture and design will engage the public in activities and experiences that broaden the understanding of design as a tool that empowers people to participate actively as citizen designers,” Gould said. 

“Successful designs for the museum will need to embrace and advance the model of the museum as a site for active engagement with ideas and practice, as much as for the display and interpretation of artefacts.” 

Mikko Aho, chair of the competition jury and vice chair of ADM, added: “This new museum will enhance Helsinki’s global profile as a capital of design by placing the subject at the heart of the urban renewal of the South Harbour, one of the city’s most significant waterfront sites.”

The project will be part of a wider masterplan for the city’s South Harbour designed by a team consisting of K2S Architects, White Arkitekter and Ramboll.

Enabling works for the wider site are understood to be underway but construction of the new cultural and public realm district is yet to start.