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Helsinki aims to wow with new biennial international art event

Organisers expect the contemporary art festival to attract 300,000 visitors this summer.

Väliaikainen paviljonki rakennetaan Helsingin Eteläsatamaan. Havainnekuva.
Architect's impression of the pavilion to be erected for Helsinki Biennial. Image: Verstas Arkkitehdit Oy

Move over Guggenheim, the Finnish capital plans to debut a splashy new pop-up pavilion as part of its new contemporary art festival, Helsinki Biennial. The inaugural event runs from 12 June to 27 September this year.

Helsinki Biennial will be staged at the historic Vallisaari island and will feature 35 artists or art collectives from Finland and abroad. This year's theme is "The same sea", representing the interdependence of people and ecosystems.

The reusable pavilion will serve as a signpost for the exhibition and will be located at the city’s southern harbor in the same location once earmarked for the now-abandoned Guggenheim Museum project.

Story continues after photo.

Katoksen alle voi paeta sadetta. Päällä taas voi ihailla vaikkapa Helsingin maisemia ja syödä eväitä. Havainnekuva.
Visitors can lounge in the shade provided by the pavilion while they wait for a ferry to the art exhibition. Image: Verstas Arkkitehdit Oy

The use of wood in the striking pavilion is reminiscent of another modern-day Helsinki landmark, the now-iconic Oodi Central Library located in the heart of the city. Head designer for the project Jussi Palva of Verstas Architects described the shape of the pavilion as similar to that of a cliff.

"The pavilion sought its inspiration from the Helsinki archipelago and Vallisaari in particular. It is shaped like a coastal cliff, wrapped into a circle around a centre resembling a giant’s kettle. To bring contrast, the natural shapes are paired with a strong graphical expression, integrated into the pavilion structure," Palva said in a statement.

The structure will serve as a launch pad for visitors attending the biennial art festival. Attendees can use the pavilion’s terrace and canopy as a waiting area, while the top of the building will provide the ideal vantage point for panoramic views of Helsinki.

Story continues after photo.

Pääsuunnittelija Jussi Palvan mukaan rakennus on saanut inspiraationsa Helsingin saaristosta ja etenkin Vallisaaresta. Havainnekuva.
Architects say the structure was inspired by the Helsinki archipelago, particularly Vallisaari island. Image: Verstas Arkkitehdit Oy

It will be used exclusively during the contemporary art festival and will be dismantled for storage at Vallisaari until the next event comes round two years later.

In addition to the pavilion, the city plans to construct two new piers on the shores of the old market hall at Lyypekinlaituri, where visitors can depart for the exhibition at Vallisaari. Other points of departure include the Market Square and Hakaniemi.

Tickets for the trip to Vallisaari can be purchased at the pavilion as well as at tourist information points throughout the city.

The event is being planned and curated by Helsinki Art Museum. Organisers expect the event to attract 300,000 visitors this summer.

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