The 6 Guggenheim Helsinki Competition Finalists Have Been Announced!

Last October, I giddily posted about the Designing Guggenheim Helsinki competition, practically jumping up and down on my keyboard.

Check this out first if you aren’t yet aware: Check Out the 1,715 Entries! The Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition has Rocked the World. 

My fervor was justified. After all, the recent architectural slugfest was officially the largest architectural design competition of all-time, grossing 1,715 approved entries. And from this ocean of proposals, the jury and organization were then faced with the daunting task of picking 6 finalists.

And they’ve done it. By Jove, they’ve done it.

Images courtesy of
Image courtesy of Maclolm Reading Consultants –

You might also like: 36 Things You MUST Consider When Designing Your Project

Less than 24 hours ago, the competition website let out an announcement that set the architectural community ablaze – the magic 6 had officially been selected.

If you check out the finalists pages, you’l find a treasure trove of more detailed information so you can further scrutinize the competition’s top-of-the-pack.

Let’s unwrap this early Christmas present and see how it all went down.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Initial Reviews and Red-Yellow-Green-Tagging.

On October 15, 2014 – the 11 jurors, under the chairmanship of Mark Wigley (Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture) were given early access to do preliminary reviews before convening physically.

By this time, an Advisory Panel already did initial reviews based on 3 critical criteria: Cityscape, Architecture, and Usability. They were then given initial tags: Yellow (possible), Green (yes), and Red (no – quarantine).

The jury then convened in Helsinki for 4 days (from October 30 to November 3, 2014). It was during that these

As written in the official website:

The Jury Chair, Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University emphasized that the Jury should look for schemes which extended or exceeded the Brief in positive ways. The Jurors’ goal was to identify the proposals that showed the most promise in developing into outstanding designs during the second phase of the competition

You might also like: The 5 People You Meet in Every Project: Who Are You REALLY Designing For?

Narrowing the entries down to the Longlist.

The jury then worked in pairs to distill the yellow and green tagged entries to weed out those that weren’t feasible. The red tagged group was also reviewed, with some entries being reconsidered and put back into the mix.

As expressed in the jury statement, the key concerns that warranted an elimination at this stage were as follows:

  • Little or no sensitivity to the site and its context, both within and outside of the site boundary.
  • No account of practical building regulations, (for example a number of proposals exceeded specified height and footprint without offering any additional value that would provoke a revision of those regulations).
  • Little consideration to the site masterplan (no thought to access and loading to museum and adjacent operational port).
  • Derivative of other Guggenheim museums, or other major museums.
  • Poor reflection of how the gallery spaces might function, of flexibility, for instance.
  • Poor reflection on how the public would interact with the building.
  • Unconvincing landscape solutions, (for example relying on planting which would not thrive in the Finnish climate, spaces that would be largely uninhabitable in winter, etc.)
  • Weak basic design in terms of materials, spaces, circulation, structure, and so on.

 Producing the Shortlist.

The jury then broke into groups of 5 and cyclically reviewed the short list. The Chair, Mark Wigley encouraged the members to look at how each submission contributed to the understanding of a museum today, pushed the boundaries of the brief, and related to the physical and social fabric of Helsinki.

Prime considerations of the discussion at this stage were as follows:

  • Urban scale/overall organizational concept
  • Connections to civic/city spaces and planes
  • Quality and character of light
  • Internal arrangement and operational (programming) of museum space (display of objects/media)
  • Materials/qualities/selection (appropriate versus inappropriate use of wood)
  • Response to weather/climatic environment/technology
  • Intrinsic flair, insight or design charisma

From the discussions, the jury then ranked each entry with a notational score from 1 to 5. From further reviews, discussions, and averaging of scores, the 6 entries with the highest marks were approved by the entire jury.

The prevailing entries’ firms have now been revealed (though which entry is by which firm will not be matched yet as it could bias the judges in the 2nd phase).

You might also like: 22 Simple Guidelines for the Successful Architecture Student

So who are the magic six? Gehry, Libeskind, Holl, Hadid, et al?

Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultatnts -
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –

Not quite. The 6 winners are not international giants or Pritzker winners (which I feel, is a great thing for the profession indeed).

The jury’s statement on the competition website concludes by looking at the collective strengths of the finalists’ proposal and looks forward to the second stage of development and reviews.

“The final shortlist encompasses a number of different scenarios: from schemes which are more experimental in engaging with the program and whose outward form will only emerge in the second phase, to ones that might seem more resolved from the outside but whose programmatic concept will only evolve fully in the second phase.

The single theme, which linked the chosen six, and united the Jury, was the impulse to expand the idea of what a museum can be. How can this new museum create a vital, meaningful, public and intellectual presence within Helsinki? Which of these concepts will develop so that they bear comparison with the city’s architectural exemplars? The Jury looks forward to the second stage of the competition and choosing a winner in early summer 2015.”

Let’s take a look at all the finalists and what the jury had to say about them.

Click the links on the competition numbers to go to the official website pages and read more detailed descriptions.

You might also like: 26 Things About Design Process That You Should Know


“The Jury felt this was a unique proposal, with a grouping of pavilions creating a continuation of the city. The scheme blended well into the city fabric, reflecting the market close by. The use of natural daylight deep into the plan was praised. However, the Jury was skeptical about the design of the roof scape. The tower-lighthouse created debate amongst the Jury, with concerns over the placement and size of the galleries, nevertheless the Jury felt the overall concept has great potential to redefine the museum as a more urban experience”.

Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –


“The Jury praised the industrial vernacular of the design, with its internal flexibility and external effect. This was felt to be a very compelling response to the Guggenheim principles for the new museum even if it was not fully developed yet. There was a very strong organizing concept with public/incubator on the ground floor and exhibition above. The low form yet pronounced silhouette was considered particularly interesting”.

Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –


“The Jury praised the integration of image and technology, and called the design simple but extraordinary. Jurors thought the scheme had such a density of visual impact that it would draw a nickname from the public but also needs to develop an equally compelling internal logic as the internal program is still too diagrammatic. The proposal used the aesthetic of the building as a sustainable energy device. There were some potential concerns raised over construction risks”.
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –


“This proposal responded well to the cityscape and the site, using the materials from the existing buildings and creating close relationships with its surroundings. The architecture is based on an evolving ecology of materials, forms and atmospheres. The scheme was based on an old store house, which was felt to be a subtle concept with a great deal of potential both for the museum and for the urban and social fabric”.
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –


“This scheme demonstrated a good understanding of how the city works and the proposal presented valuable research demonstrating a new direction for the museum internally and in relation to the urban fabric. There is particular attention to public space and the potential exhibition spaces were considered authentic. The Jury acknowledged the scheme was at an early, conceptual phase, but its non-stereotypical approach was seen to open up a particularly promising future for the project on the site”.
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –


“The Jury praised the basic concept behind the proposal. The use of timber seemed especially elegant and the internal courtyard could be memorable with circuits of independent galleries. The use of nine lifts was especially questioned by the Jury but it was felt that the gallery ‘rooms’ could work well if the horizontal and vertical circulation scheme could be developed both in terms of efficiency and complexity of visitor experience”.
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –
Image courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants –

 So what say you?

Do you agree with jury’s decision? Or do you feel there is much to be desired with the top 6? Perhaps you thought another entry deserved to be up there?

One thing is for certain. The 6 finalists are set to slug it out some more to develop their schemes into more apt, cohesive proposals.

And one of them will hold the distinction of designing the next iconic Guggenheim, as well as winning the world’s largest design competition to date.

Keep your eyes open, and stay critical.


End Sign

 Any insights, comments or questions? Don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message!


Facebook Follow Banner

Twitter Follow Banner


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s