June 23, 2015 / 1:20 PM / 2 years ago

Timber-clad lighthouse wins design contest for Helsinki Guggenheim museum

3 Min Read

Nicolas Moreau (L) and Hiroko Kusunoki of French agency Moreau Kusunoki Architectes win as the designers for the future Guggenheim Helsinki Museum in Helsinki, Finland, June 23, 2015.Heikki Saukkomaa/Lethikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A proposal for a timber-clad lighthouse won an international contest for the design of a planned new Guggenheim museum in Helsinki on Tuesday, even as the future of the project hangs in the balance amid strong opposition from many Finns.

The winning entry by Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki Architects, which beat five other short-listed designs, links nine low pavilions to a lighthouse-like tower, with all structures clad in Finnish charred timber and glass.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's plan to spread to Helsinki has faced opposition due to museum's estimated cost of 140 million euros ($157 million), which many Finns consider a waste of taxpayer money at a time of austerity and huge cuts to public spending.

The foundation, which has popular and architecturally innovative museums in New York, Bilbao and Venice, and one under construction in Abu Dhabi, said in 2012 it wanted to add Helsinki to its stable of contemporary art spaces.

The Helsinki city board in 2012 narrowly voted down the project but last year allowed the foundation to proceed with the architecture competition.

Supporters argue that the museum will be a boost for Finland. They cite the example of the Bilbao Guggenheim, which has helped to transform the Spanish city into a popular art and architectural destination. 

The 11-member international jury commended the winning Helsinki entry, named Art in the City, for its contemporary design and respect for the site in the South Harbour.

The design created a "fragmented campus of linked pavilions where art and society could meet and intermingle," it said.

Guggenheim Helsinki Support Foundation also announced on Tuesday that it has collected more than a third of the $30 million it wants to raise in private donations.

Ari Lahti, the head of Guggenheim Helsinki Support Foundation, said the museum would pay back the initial investment multiple times by creating economic growth and jobs.

Finland "needs to invest in something that people all over the world want to see," Lahti said. Helsinki City Board said it will now assess the museum's economic impact and decide in the autumn whether to proceed with the construction.

Editing by Alister Doyle and Raissa Kasolowsky

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