Culture / Design

Guggenheim Helsinki Project Scrapped

The Helsinki city council buried a contested plan to build a museum bearing the name of the US-based Guggenheim Foundation, primarily due to the price tag.

Dec 02, 2016 | By Madelaine Angelina

After six years of sometimes acrimonious talks, the Helsinki city council rejected the plan for a Guggenheim museum to be established in the Finnish capital. The main sticking point was reportedly the hefty bill.

Derisively referred to as the ‘McDonald’s of Art’ (since the Guggenheim is a chain of museums with outposts in New York, Bilbao and Venice), the museum was set to open along the city’s waterfront, facing the presidential palace. Opponents of the project claimed that the location is far too strategic to be given to the museum.

However, supporters’ pointed out that the proposed site is currently a parking lot so arguments about the strategic value were spurious. They hoped to convince doubters of the potential tourism boom that the Guggenheim might precipitate, as shown in the example of the Guggenheim at Bilbao, Spain.

Following a five-hour debate on Thursday, the project was voted down, with 53 council members against and just 32 for.


The Guggenheim Helsinki had been on the horizon since 2011 but the project had always been dogged by financial issues and political disapproval.

In 2015, a French studio, Moreau Kusunoki Architectes, won an international design competition organized to give form to the project, with a concept grouping somber rectangular pavilions and a tower resembling a lighthouse.

The competition’s jury found the design “deeply respectful of the site” but during the city council meeting some delegates called it a “bunker”.

Most opponents were concerned about the museum’s price tag, estimated at 130 million euros ($137.8 million), of which the city of Helsinki would have paid 80 million, while also having to secure a loan of a further 35 million euros.

The US-based Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation would have charged some 18.4 million euros ($19.5 million) over 20 years for lending its famous brand to the museum.

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