September 22, 2014 / 3:54 PM / 4 years ago

Uncertain Guggenheim Helsinki draws record number of hopeful architects

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A plan for a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki like those in Bilbao and New York has attracted a record number of design submissions, even though it is not sure it will be built, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation said.

Six finalists from the 1,715 entries will be announced in December and the winner will be published next summer. Helsinki will meanwhile carry out an assessment of the possible museum’s economical impact for the city.

“The level of the proposals varies a lot, and a large number of these entries will not fulfill the competition requirements,” said Mari Koskinen from the Finnish Association of Architects, which helped organize the competition.

“Many well-known architect offices didn’t participate because of the uncertainty of the whole project.”

Helsinki’s city council narrowly voted against the 140-million-euro ($191 million) museum in 2012 due to worries that much of the expense would be borne by taxpayers.

But this year, it agreed to launch the design competition, which the museum’s proponents hope will help bolster popular support for the project.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation said on its website that the submissions from 77 countries represent the largest number of entries ever recorded for such a competition.

The previous record holder was the 2002 competition for the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza pyramids and sphinx on the outskirts of Cairo, which received 1,557 entries.

Koskinen said the popularity of the competition was partly due to Europe’s weak economic climate and the relatively small number of high-profile competitions, as well as the prominent waterfront location of the potential site.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the original Guggenheim Museum’s snail-shell structure in New York. Frank Gehry’s titanium-clad design for the Guggenheim in Bilbao helped transform the city into an art and architectural destination in what is called the “Bilbao effect”.

Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Michael Roddy and Tom Heneghan

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