How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

The Guggenheim in New York is as famous for its distinctive Frank Lloyd Wright eggshell as it is for its art. Design is a selling point for museums, which may explain why the Guggenheim opened up its search for an architect to design its new Helsinki outpost to the public. The competition ended up being the most popular design contest ever, with almost 2,000 entrants.

At least 1,715 architects are excited about the project, but it has its critics, too. Some have described the Guggenheim adding another gem to its global crown of billion-dollar art establishments as cultural colonialism, arguing that the Guggenheim's model doesn't work for Helsinki. "The formula of using a landmark building to brand a city is played out", argues NYU's Andrew Ross. "And, in the case of a museum, always had more to do with merchandising the place than with art itself." Perhaps that's why the Guggenheim took an unusual tack with the design competition for the new property, opening up the contest to any and all architects from around the world.

Design competitions are rarely completely open, and it's easy to see why: the competition garnered 1,715 individual projects from almost 80 countries, each with its own design statement and renderings, which the museum says is a world record. Now, the jury will need to parse them all and narrow the list down to the top six. The entries are randomised and anonymised, which means that all we have to go on are two images and a brief design statement. See what you think of 15 highlights below, along with excerpts from the designers' statements, or browse the entire list here.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The "Landforms & Artforms" project builds on the idea of bringing the subtle qualities of the Finnish archipelago into the new Guggenheim museum. The typologies range from vegetated rock based islands and underwater reefs, to smaller sand-based atolls with little vegetation and vegetation-less skerries and cliffs that penetrate the sea.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

[The] Eteläsatama area is already a landmark with identity, the proposal thinks that the new Guggenheim needs to take advantages from the site, improving it, but not changing the essence.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

We created a modular building, "floating" on a simple, transparent first floor, with sharp edges and imposing height differences, counterbalanced by the fluid interior, with very few separating physical elements, keeping in the same time a logical, well-structured route.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The project proposes to host the new Guggenheim Helsinki in a refurbished cargo ship, leaving the allocated site as an open air museum linked with the Tähtitorninvuoren park. The Guggenheim Foundation introduced a new way of bringing art into mass society by thinking of the private museum as a public event.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The new Guggenheim takes inspiration from the temporary and "in motion" character of the harbour landscapes; symbol of a contemporary world we thought at the museum as an art warehouse.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The new Guggenheim Helsinki is composed as a series of interconnected volumes that generate new relations between Tahtitornin vouri park, the boardwalk and the waterfront. Given the very prominent site of the project, the proposal is not only concerned with the building itself, but with creating a network of public spaces along the waterfront.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The shape of the building refers to the Savoy Vase from Aalto. The modest, understated, minimalist and yet exciting design language refers to the Finnish lakes. The interior design is characterised by a great degree of transparency and evokes an outdoor feeling.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

Our aim is to create a museum as a membrane of light that drifts in mid-air, enfolding the port of Helsinki. We think the aurora is the symbol of beauty in the Nordic country. The mystical veil lightly envelops the exhibition spaces, museum foyer, and the public waterfront as an active area that peacefully invigorates the atmosphere for the people and their surroundings...


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

Instead of one single huge structure, we introduce a series homogenesis houses link up by a covered winter urban plaza. This weather‐proofed venue opens to the public all day as part of the urban space. This strategy maximises the museum's contribution to city life and encourage the interaction between the Design, Art & daily life.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

A forest as a museum and a museum as a forest are the weaving themes, which reveal our obsession to distinguish between the natural and the artificial. The project reflects on what a museum is and what a super culture could be: the forest rebalances the senses saturated by an abundance of images and sounds in the museum. The forest reveals the nature of the wider city and is grounded in the tradition of Scandinavian fairy tales.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The heart of the new Guggenheim Helsinki Museum is a fervent Finnish Wooden Blossom in a melting Ice Block elevated over a solid Podium. The three parts of the museum form a compact set full of symbolism that accurately reflects the spirit of a country, and the ancient tradition of commitment with art, design and architecture of a whole city and a great institution.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

It is proposed to be built over an old terminal, with the simple idea of turning a forgotten space into a recreational waterfront. Alluding an Ice Shanty, the design covered in wood, aims to embody a careful relation between the place and its culture. The Great white wall, works an entry door to the city and the museum, but also as a huge white canvas, where artists can intervene.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

The main building is designed as an object that gracefully twists engaging significant urban spaces and systems. It is conceived as a potent volume that presents itself as a contemporary piece of art that engages the visitor with new and extraordinary ways to discover exhibits. The unique relation to context and use of light, are major exhibition gallery features.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

This proposal bases the museum's identity on a new architectural design, strong and bold yet grounded in three of the site's intrinsic qualities : the mingling of landscapes, Helsinki's light, the city's skyline.


How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum

How 15 Anonymous Architects Envision the World's Next Great Museum


The project is organised around a metaphoric duality between an autonomous semi-public area on the ground floor (the parc) and, on the upper levels, an introspection space dedicated to exhibitions and terrasses (the house).