It’s far too early to say whether the design for the proposed Guggenheim museum in Helsinki will prove scandalous in its design, but entries for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s first international museum design competition are due on Wednesday, Sept. 10. My esteemed source, the Washington classicist Nir Buras, has clued me in to what he considers scandalous about the competition.
It is that the notoriously wealthy foundation is soliciting labor and expenses worth millions of dollars from an estimated 400 entrants for its two-stage competition.
Now, most competitions involve some grumbling from folks who think their submissions should be subsidized. At least Guggenheim does not have the cheek to demand an entry fee. But the required four boards and associated labor, copying and postal costs can mount up to a stiff expense in the budgets of all but the most established architectural firms. You’d think that the foundation, which prides itself as a mentor to the arts, would establish some sort of sliding scale for entrants at all levels, not just the 55,000 euros to be awarded to the five finalists in the first stage of the competition. The eventual winner will get 100,000 euros, plus, one expects, the usual extravagant fee for design and construction oversight commanded by the victors of such competitions.
Not that anyone reading this post not already aware of the competition is likely to create an entry in time for submission by 12 noon EEST (Helsinki time). Still, we can all hope that among the typical 400 entrants are some with classical proposals, which are certainly not ruled out by the competition rules. Nir Buras has entered. Thankfully the entries are anonymous, or his disgruntlement might be an unofficial ground for dismissing his entry. I will try to post his entry to the competition as soon as he sends it to me. The number of entrants will be announced by Guggenheim consultant Malcolm Reading, of London, on Sept. 17. (By the way, it is apparently not automatic rejection for proposals that do not make the deadline.) The six finalists will be announced later this fall. The final winner will be announced in June 2015.
Helsinki is a great city, which I’ve never, alas, visited. I hope the Guggenheim Foundation will decide to do something truly novel by selecting for this prestigious commission a classical design that pays homage to the history of a great city.