Our proposal for the Guggenheim Helsinki is an infinitely adaptable structure that both accommodates the diversity of art - now and its indeterminate future - in its very structure and composition, and mediates between the museum as a place for encountering art and the city of Helsinki without making the two seamless, or becoming a ‘decorated shed’: an urban sculpture with a functioning museum within.
The museum is split into two distinct areas: a cruciform volume accommodating the galleries surrounded by a plinth housing the non-exhibition program to act as an interior urban living room. This grouping of exhibition and non-exhibition spaces enables the two to adopt different configurations as well as internal environments.
Each of the floors of the cruciform comprises five structurally independent moveable platforms that are designed to move up and down using ship lifts. This creates a flexible exhibition space, with changing physical volumes and the ability to manage the internal environments of those volumes separately to offer different levels of light, temperature and humidity, and to easily adapt them for each new exhibition using only the optimum amount of energy.
To facilitate these changes, each platform is provided with a floor plenum that can link into the floor plenum of the adjacent platform. Internal comfort is managed by a variable volume displacement system. The air is tempered at roof plant and distributed through external membrane walls of the cruciform, supplied into spaces at low level and allowed to rise using its natural buoyancy by picking up heat generated internally, then collected back at roof for energy recovery. The combination of highly effective envelope and responsive, efficient internal systems will ensure low energy consumption. Displacing the platforms generates exhibition spaces of varying shapes and heights as well as ways of circulating through the museum. The platforms can be levelled with one another to generate large galleries or take up staggered relationships, thereby gaining views into and across each other. This matrix of possibilities provides the museum with curatorial flexibility and turns it into a laboratory for art. The platforms which can carry a minimum of 15KN/m2 are likely to encourage more artists to explore weight as a subject; the diagonal spaces that can be generated as a result of the split floors are bound to encourage artists to explore oblique practices; as the galleries can also become unconventionally short, the museum can also nurture tiny scale art that usually gets lost in a typical gallery.
The counter weights for lifting the exhibition platforms are exposed on the exterior walls of the cruciform volume and clad in mirror stainless steel. As the gallery floors are moved for each exhibition, the counter weights move too. The different faces of the cruciform will therefore absorb reflections of the water, the city fabric or the sky and they will change over time based on the inside configurations. The presence of the museum in the city will therefore be ever-changing and a co-production between the exhibition configurations within and the city environment outside.