U.S. Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck says that Helsinki should seriously consider giving the green light to the proposed Guggenheim museum. The Guggenheim proposal has strongly divided opinions in the Finnish capital and further afield in Finland. One of the main concerns is funding of the estimated 130-million-euro project.
"Iconic architecture and iconic places help define cities," says Oreck, who believes that Helsinki could learn from cities such as Sydney and Bilbao, both of which are known for their striking landmarks.
"The critical juncture today is to take a great city – Helsinki – and make it into an extraordinary city. Simply being great is not enough any longer, you have to be extraordinary," says Oreck, whose ambassadorial term in Finland comes to a close at the end of this year.
Four years ago when Oreck came to Finland, few people recognised him. Now, he is somewhat of a local celebrity, known both for his bold opinions and his muscular stature that comes from bodybuilding.
Oreck says, jokingly, that when he first arrived in Finland, he was mistaken for a bodyguard because of his physique. "People would point to my wife and say, 'Oh, there's the new U.S. ambassador' ... and they would point at me and say 'there's the ambassador's bodyguard,'" he says, with a laugh.
Humour aside, the proposed Guggenheim museum in Helsinki is the topic of heated debate. After the Helsinki City Council narrowly rejected the initial proposal for a Guggenheim museum in 2012, the Guggenheim Foundation presented a new proposal for a museum in the Finnish capital earlier this month.