French company to design $160m Helsinki Guggenheim

Moreau Kusunoki, a Paris-based architect, has won an open competition to design the $160m Helsinki Guggenheim museum.

The husband-and-wife team beat 1,715 applications from 77 countries to the $112,000 first prize; five runners up won $56,000 each.

Moreau Kusunoki, which was founded four years ago, is proposing a design that features charred wood, glass and a tower that looks out over the city’s south harbour.

The museum will take the form of a collection of pavilions, each orientated to the city grid, anchored by the lighthouse-like tower and linked by a covered street.

The jury found the design respectful of the site and setting, and said it created a "fragmented, non-hierarchical, horizontal campus of linked pavilions where art and society could meet and inter-mingle".

It added that the waterfront, park, and city each had a "dialogue" with the building and the forms and materials described as being "distinctive and contemporary".

This respectful attitude might have been a particular factor in the success of the design, as the population of Helsinki is bitterly divided over whether it wants to pay so much for its new museum.

The mayor of Helsinki has argued that it will have the same regenerative effect as Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim, and a report by the Boston Consulting Group estimated that the museum could generate $56m a year. In a 2011 opinion poll, 75% of the population of Helsinki objected to the cost, most of which will be borne by the city council and the Finnish government.

Next month, the New York Guggenheim will host an event where more details of the design will be provided.

Moreau Kusunoki Architectes have previously won contracts in Beauvais, French Guiana and Paris.

Images: Moreau Kusunoki’s designs for the Helsinki Guggenheim.

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