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Anti-Guggenheim groups launch competition for South Harbour location

A new initiative around the planned Guggenheim museum in Helsinki aims at identifying alternative uses for Helsinki's South Harbour, proposed site of the arts centre. Behind the latest twist in Finland’s bid to host one of the iconic museums are a Helsinki art organisation and anti-Guggenheim groups in the United States.

Proposed site for a Helsinki Guggenheim art museum.
Image: Jyki Lyytikkä / Yle

Checkpoint Helsinki has been one of the most vocal critics of the proposal to locate an iconic Guggenheim museum in the Finnish capital – in fact the group owes its existence to opposition to the project.

Checkpoint has now joined forces with two US groups in an attempt to steal the thunder of the Guggenheim architectural competition currently underway.  One of the US players is the architectural and sustainable development NGO Terreform, the other is Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction, GULF. The latter has devoted much of its energies to exposing injustices in the construction of the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim museum.

Known as The Next Helsinki, the counter-competition invites participants to submit suggestions for alternative uses for the South harbour plot reserved for the proposed Guggenheim museum. Participants may also include architectural drawings as well as sketches or essays on the subject of city planning.

Ideas for the alternative competition should be submitted by March 2 next year.

Deadline for "real" Guggenheim submissions looms

The group has launched its counter-competition on the eve of the deadline for submissions for an architectural contest to find a designer for the authentic Guggenheim. The Guggenheim Foundation said Tuesday that it will announce the number of entries next Wednesday, September 17, while an online gallery showcasing the submissions will be available in late October.

Entries that make it to stage two of the competition will be announced on December 2 in Helsinki, and a final winner will be named in June 2015. The winner gets to take home 100,000 euros; five runners-up will each receive 55,000 euros.

Competition idea from New York

The alternative competition doesn't offer any big prizes, but rather a chance to stimulate discussion about art and its role in city life and urban planning.

City researcher and architect Kaarin Taipale is part of the movement to find alternatives for the South Harbour location. She said that the idea for the alternative competition came from New York.

”Friends, acquaintances and colleagues were in touch. Then Checkpoint Helsinki found a cooperation partner,” she said.

”We are inviting sociologists, environmentalists, architects, landscape designers and artists to consider the role of art in the city and city spaces. And what kind of city space could be pleasant and useful for everyone,” Taipale added.

A member of the SDP council group and Helsinki city council, Taipale said that she got involved as national activist not a politician. She will be secretary of the judges’ panel.

Judges for the competition include the owner of Gallerie Anhava Ilona Anhava, architect Juhani Pallasmaa and Terreform founder and architect Michael Sorkin.

Edit: This article was updated to remove a reference to Checkpoint Helsinki as an anti-Guggenheim group. The alternative architectural competition was also re-cast as a contest to find other uses for the South Harbour area, rather than specifically for the proposed site of the Helsinki Guggenheim museum.

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