Competition or PR stunt? That’s up to you to decide, but there is no debate that the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition has provoked some interesting conversations around issues of the cultural institution in the globalized 21st century.
On June 23, the Guggenheim will announce a winner, from the 1,715 official entries, all of which you can see here. However, the most interesting parts of the competition will probably be auxiliary to the building chosen on next Tuesday. In October 2014, the list was trimmed to a more manageable (and anonymous) six finalists.
One of the spin-offs of the Helsinki competition is Next Helsinki, an alternative call-for-proposals that solicited new ideas about how the museum can bring its centrally located, waterfront site to life through the continuation of emergent urban trends. Rather than simply create another icon, Michael Sorkin explained on the website, organizers initiated the competition because of an “outrage at the march of the homogenizing multi-national brand culture emblematized by the imperial Guggenheim franchise—the cultural equivalent of Starbucks—was what launched us.”
However, they also did it because they care about the city of Helsinki. “The feeling of love came from our mutual affection for Helsinki, from a sense that it is a singular place, unique in setting, form, and culture. Understanding the impetus to acquire a Guggenheim as a pursuit of the vaunted Bilbao effect, the idea that some gaudy global repository would put a tired place on the map, we wondered why a city so indelibly fixed in the urban firmament, so superb, would ant to surrender such a fabulous site to some starchitect supermarket,” Sorkin continued.
For more on the Next Helsinki project, and to see the shortlisted projects, see their website.