Guggenheim Helsinki Museum This proposal seeks to address the dichotomy between the global nature of Guggenheim’s enterprise and the resistant and archaeological nature of cities that Guggenheim museums are situated in. While the Guggenheim has become a stronghold in the art world, it has also courageously declared that it is keen to interrogate its own canons and its current mode of practice. As the multiple and contested grounds surrounding the new site reveal, the only way for Guggenheim to enter into Helsinki is for it to invent a new form of “hinge” – third spaces that understand both the local context and archaeology of the city, as well as the global ambitions of Guggenheim. We term this third space Guggenheim ALT. It is not by accident that all Guggenheim museums are described in close proximity to the city. They form a unique symbiosis, where the institution and the urbanism support each other in more than adequate ways. This mutuality means that issues of social, economic and environmental sustainability become all the more critical and urgent. This, too, argues for a set of alternative spaces that do not only conform to the civic demands of the city, nor do they agree only with the business of exhibiting or collecting art. These alternative spaces weave in between the paid galleries and the outdoor public spaces, forming a new kind of micro urbanism, effectively bringing the city into the museum. The alternative nature of this “hinge” space is what we term Guggenheim ALT. The uniqueness of Helsinki’s social and urban development is the critical piece of the puzzle. The city’s historic tradition of support structures and services for its people remain the hallmark of its society and democracy. In this sense, the virtue of altruism is a necessity of society, which contrasts sharply from another form of meritocratic democracy. In a nutshell, the Finnish society looks up to its figureheads in society (and name its historic institutions accordingly, such as the Aalto University), while the American society uphold its sponsors in endowment in the highest (and name its key curators accordingly, such as the Samsung Senior Curator). This distinction in economic and political sensibilities cannot be more stark, hence in the marriage of Guggenheim and Helsinki, the persistence of the third space Guggenheim ALT is imperative. ALT spaces have the capacity to relate to the multiple stakeholders in Helsinki, and they are rationalized from the original programs of Guggenheim. Stakeholders of a complex, cosmopolitan site can include a hugely diverse range, from local cyclists on a bike circuit, city folks enjoying a picnic and sunshine, park goers on a shortcut back to the city, ferry commuters on their way to work, to tourists finding the highest observation deck in the city and enjoying a view of the harbor, all of whom can have an opportunity to encounter art along the way. Stakeholders can also include international tourists from the cruise terminal on their way to the city center, paid public or private groups using the ground-level workshop spaces, paid global museum visitors dining at the restaurants, all of whom will see art, but more importantly, they will encounter the city and its people. Guggenheim ALT are not merely piecemeal spaces that pay lip-service to the community, but they connect to the larger grounds and network of services and infrastructure. Because they relate to the surrounding grounds that address the broader socio-political needs of Helsinki, ALT spaces would have to have some degree of autonomy from Guggenheim. Guggenheim ALT is a set of programmed spaces that are relevant to networks immediately adjacent to the site, and most importantly, they are designed to come in between the art spaces and the public spaces. ALT spaces must remain flexible and dynamic, so as to promote the greatest relevance to the society they serve.
Guggenheim Helsinki Museum