Check Out the 1,715 Entries! The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition has Rocked the World.

Update December 3, 2014 – The 6 Guggenheim Helsinki Competition Finalists Have Been Announced!

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

There are many architectural design competitions that sprout up across the globe on a regular basis. But among them, there are only a few that truly rock the world. The Designing Guggenheim Helsinki competition is one of them. You have to check it out.

Guggenheim Museum” is a phrase that resonates prestige in most architects, art afficionados, and regular folk alike – not only because of the art pieces they house, but also because of the architecture itself. 

The first Guggenheim Museum in New York was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of history’s most prolific architects. It remains as one of the city’s most iconic edifices. 

The second Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, by Pritzker winner Frank Gehry was the grandiose spark that revitalized the city – giving rise to the phenomenon known as the “Bilbao Effect“. 

The third one in Abu Dhabi (which is also designed by Gehry) is still under construction, but without a doubt speaks within the same iconic language and intent. 


It was with this premise that the Government of Helsinki (the capital of Finland) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation launched the international design competition for the 4th Guggenheim museum.

So what were the organizing committee looking for in the design? 

Of course there was a long project brief that was released for competitors to digest, along with a number of longer documents and query compilations, but in a nutshell the task was this:

“The proposed Guggenheim Helsinki will be an innovative, multidisciplinary museum of art and design. It should be of the highest architectural quality, creating a meaningful presence in Helsinki and offering civic space where both residents and visitors can gather. A prominent site has been reserved for the building at the symbolic gateway to the city from the sea, and close to the historic center.”

The site itself is beautiful. By the sea, with an iconic park that rolls down to the site, with clear views to a number of Helsinki’s important landmarks. All that jazz. 

Guggenheim Site
Image courtesy of

Project principles (taken from the competition website)

  • Outstanding, engaging, original design
  • Potential to become a landmark and a symbol of Helsinki
  • Sensitivity to historic waterfront setting
  • Sustainable placemaking from an economic, social, and environmental perspective
  • Strong connections to the historic city center, harbor and urban context, which are evident and enjoyable in all seasons
  • A design informed by Nordic ideals, including openness and accessibility

The competition started in the middle of 2014, where basically any person, from any country could join the fray for one of the most prized projects ever. After a tumultuous 2 months of queries, design and production work, the organizing committee closed the doors to late submissions by mid-September. And just recently, they updated the competition website to showcase all the submissions.

By December, the finalists will be chosen. They’ll develop their schemes further and slug it out to be the ultimate winner. The final winner is set to be announced next year. Dun dun dunnn. 

Let’s take a closer look at the aftermath of Stage One. 

Guggenheim Reach
Image courtesy of

Architects and firms from all over the globe took part, as broken down in the statistics on the competition website.

The United States, Italy, United Kingdom, Finland, Japan, and France were the Top 6 Countries in terms of number of entries sent.

So exactly how many entries were submitted? If you browse through the competition website you’ll come across the “Stage One Submissions” gallery and see for yourself. Be prepared. 

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

There were 1,715 entries submitted. Designing Guggenheim Helsinki is officially the most popular and widespread architectural competition in history.

I love this competition because it’s the testament to the power of the architectural design proposal.

There’s a lot to learn from browsing the gallery that is invaluable for young design students. From here, you’ll see how architects have the power to propose how living can bein an infinite number of ways. So many different approaches, languages, concepts, disciplines, styles, takes, and the like – which can be digested and reflected upon.

So please, if you’re a young architecture student, do yourself a favor and browse through the gallery. Grab some ideas. Fill that cup. Be critical. Decide what you like. Decide what you don’t like. Be inspired by the rendering quality. Form your own favorites list. Put up a personal wall of shame.  Do it.

The point is, get clicking, and start learning.

I’ll be showcasing some of the works at the end of this post to demonstrate a number of diverse takes on the same design brief. 



Images below are courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants:
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Let’s further the discussion! 🙂 

Please, feel free to comment below or send me an email if you’ve got something on your mind that you’d like to share. Cheers!


Did you like what you just read? There’s more where that came from! Click the image below to check out all the posts in the category of FORMATION!


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