A PITCHED AND CUT CANOPY FOR PEOPLE AND ART: With the apparent apotheosis of the art market, it is a surprising paradox that the art world has produced a limited range of spatial repertoires: from commercial white boxes to industrial sheds, from never-ending art fairs to contemporary art museums, too often thinly disguised as shopping malls. This seemingly exponential expansion, and absence, occurs on two fronts. First, in terms of scale, and second, in terms of quantity. More and more, spaces commissioned for the display of art become inflated, eradicating the spectator's intimate and delicate experience while at the same time revering contemporary artists who enact experiences to apocalyptic proportions. Likewise, with the market's relentless expansion, we see an apparent disappearance of public art's potential to produce radical otherness, instead trafficking individual comfort over alterity… security over ambiguity. By resisting this paradox through a range of innovative urban and spatial experiences, we seek to promote alterity, intimacy and flexibility at the Guggenheim Helsinki.

Alterity/ Cityscape: Situated at the apex of Helsinki's colliding neoclassical districts, our proposed Guggenheim Helsinki is positioned to radically reinvent the post-industrial Eteläsatama (South Harbor) waterfront.

In order to connect Market Square in the north with Tähtitorninvuori Park in the south, we propose lifting the 12,100 m² museum into a canopy of planted courtyard valleys and tectonic peaks.

Like a green archipelago, the planted courtyards and pathways stitch the Esplanadi/ Market Square together with the Tähtitorninvuori Park via a newly triggered waterfront.

Visible from a variety of the city's vantage points, a constantly changing silhouette of lifted peaks results from subtle checkerboard modifications in plan and section.

Ranging from indigenous huts to soaring sails, each urban vista of the Guggenheim Helsinki is unique yet constantly changing.

At strategic moments, we lift and lower the roof canopy, allowing pedestrian entrances and varying views; while at other moments, the canopy is pierced, allowing internal courtyards and circulation.

Animating this canopy, a series of crisscrossing pedestrian bridges and pathways connects Tähtitorninvuori Park to the newly activated waterfront.

The simplicity and scale of the resulting gesture...

along with the complexity of functions visible inside...

suggest a new credibility—a credible alterity—to Helsinki's waterfront: a provocative beacon for the congregation of arts and the public realm.

Intimacy/ Architecture: In contrast to an imposing agglomeration of discrete boxes or blobs to house all of the museum's activities, our proposal conceives the Guggenheim Helsinki as a simple gesture that is separated yet connected by the single pitched-and-cut roof canopy.

Above, this canopy shifts along the urban fabric to connect pedestrian circulation, framing views and optimizing solar access while structurally resisting loads like a tripod.

Below, the canopy dissolves into the topography at Tähtitorninvuori Park; defining a new urban plaza along the Vironallas Basin to the north, lifted to allow for access and views to and from the street, or pierced to allow for the internal garden courtyards.

Situated in the troughs between the peaks, the courtyards are excavated into a checkerboard pattern that shifts in response to solar access and the urban context.

The transparent garden courtyards provide light, air and views to the galleries inside, and terraces for the café and formal dining outside.

The ridges and seams of the roof canopy strategically pleat, letting indirect light in at the same time concealing column-free catenary roof trusses.

Underneath, the large anticlastic roof canopy gently reflects indirect and ambient light, and at the same time prevents the galleries from direct sunlight. Ranging from experimental to traditional, each gallery is separated and connected by the alternating roof canopy and garden courtyards. Three courtyards are lifted, allowing for intimate and delicate art experiences underneath, while the remaining courtyards expand the landscape within, yet extending the display of art to the outdoors with sculpture gardens. The museum's floor plate is conceived as a single continuous plinth.

Art/ Experience. The museum's floor plate is conceived as a single continuous plinth. Like a tectonic uplift, the plinth warps up at the southwest corner to provide a secondary public entrance onto Laivasillankatu and Tähtitorninvuori Park. Beneath this uplift, the museum's administrative, maintenance, collection offices, mechanical spaces, loading dock and kitchen are housed within a functional poché.

By varying the height of the canopy above, the plinth accommodates a wide range of art experiences...

from intimate alcoves along the perimeter to grand atriums at the center.

Ranging from spiraling ramps...

to lifted platforms to levitating stage floors... each atrium is conceived like a folly, with its own circulation identity, equipping the curator to choreograph new experiences between the audience and the gallery.

When joined for major exhibitions, the atriums are experienced like a sequence of urban plazas connected along a grand boulevard; or, when separated by temporary partitions and acoustic curtains, like an archipelago of autonomous chambers.

Armed with a series of catwalks, bridges, ramps, lifts, acoustic curtains, temporary partitions and scaffolds, any number of installations and curatorial positions can be deployed, from period rooms within one gallery to a black box installation in another. Since no gallery is isolated socially, the curator is given tremendous flexibility to create or suspend the viewing experience of the public. Suddenly multiple simultaneous exhibitions connect opportunistically and/or diverge; competing art movements across history collide… multiple narratives emerge. No longer obscured by poché as in the conventional museum, the galleries are liberated to re-connect with the city, to break down the division between the pictorial space of the gallery and the social space of the city.

Flexibility/ Usability. At the heart of our proposal is an unprecedented level of flexibility and intimacy achieved by the simple gesture of a pitched-and-cut roof canopy above and plinth below.

At the same time, the main atriums are conceived as a series of interconnected urban plazas that nurture a new degree of difference, a heightened alterity.

Entering off a new urban plaza along the Vironallas Basin from the north, the plinth accommodates covered bicycle parking outdoors, while the café, formal dining, coat check and museum store sit indoors, within the entrance atrium. Weather permitting, the café spills outside toward the basin and waterfront, while the formal dining looks out over commanding views of the Eteläsatama waterfront to the east and south through the exterior sculpture courtyard.

Entering from the southwest, the plinth warps upward, connecting at grade with Laivasillankatu and Tähtitorninvuori Park, creating additional opportunities for bicycle parking, while forming a small indoor/outdoor café and bar in the flanking courtyard enjoys a favorable south-facing microclimate. Along the warped floor, raked seating is provided for the conference hall, while the multi-purpose classroom is located at the summit to maximize engagement and access along Laivasillankatu and Tähtitorninvuori Park. An external pedestrian bridge passes overhead to connect Bernhardinkatu with the waterfront, giving cyclist a high-speed panorama of the museum's activities inside. Access to the loading dock is provided by the port service road.


The pitched roof canopy is conceived as a light-weight, rigid catenary, form-finding structure in compression that is made of composite, insulated, structural wood panels.

Primary trusses of 1.5m – 2m depth are concealed in the canopy's pleated ridge seams. Defining both interior and exterior finishes, the warped panels are sourced from local renewable timber, insulated with organic, expanded spray soy foam (~.5m thick). The tessellating panels produce a rigid shell, reducing structural metals; providing an excellent low embodied highly insulated shell.

Mechanically, the plinth is conceived as a gridded floor air plenum, allowing temporary partitions and galleries to plug-in for heating and cooling, minimizing the required conditioning load.

The roof canopy is cut and pleated to maximize indirect natural light, passive solar heat gain, and when necessary, natural ventilation.

External, evacuated solar hot water tubes are integrated into the canopy to harvest energy and to offset district heating and cooling loads.

© 2014 NO ARCHITECTURE, PLLC PROJECT: Contemporary art museum, performance hall, black box theater, offices, cafe, store, restaurant, archive TYPE: Competition SIZE: 12,100 m² (130,243 ft²) CLIENT: Guggenheim Foundation COLLABORATORS: ARUP with Matthew Clark LOCATION: Helsinki, Finland STATUS: Pending VALUE: $130 million KEY PERSON: Andrew Heid TEAM: Wendi Cui, George Distefano, Eleonora Sbrissa, Nicole Mattos Toja, Marta Rodrigues, Alberto Andrés Silva Olivo, Sabrina Wang, Xiaoyue Yin, Erin Yook

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