Guggensinki scandal?

Site of proposed Guggenheim Helsinki museum. The rules do not call for the twisted turd drawn into this image. (

Site of proposed Guggenheim Helsinki museum. The rules do not call for the twisted turd drawn into this image. (

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.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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5 Responses to Guggensinki scandal?

  1. Dear David,
    I think you haven’t read the competition regulations carefully, yet. Or … the image you provide in this post is from the previous competition which was cancelled. – I do not remember the cancellation reason but at least it will not provide any realisation in the end…

    (and actually IT WAS the site you present on the image)…

    Please, tell me what is so confusing about a competition – an international one – in which you could take part? Anyone (theoretically) is invited. It is anonymous (as I assume 😉

    Peace and love!

    Let me know about the competition news, as soon as you get any info.


    • I did not realize that an initial competition (held by Guggenheim?) was cancelled, and I’m not sure whether you are saying that the image I used was of the current or the previous competition. I do not think the rules of the competition are confusing, I was only saying that, according to my correspondent, the fact that the wealthy Guggenheim Foundation was not subsidizing the competition entrants beyond omitting an entry fee (and paying the winner and five runners up) might be considered scandalous. I am sure I will report on the results when they are announced in 2015.


  2. As described in this article, this competition does not add up to much of a scandal, since its requirements are more generous to the participants than would be typical.


  3. Jack says:

    Yes! , I spent 1700 US Dollar just to print, mount and ship it from US. Certainly, Fedex will be super profitable from this project as well. It’s not eco-friendly competition. Why don’t they go digital?, (BTW, The entries will be more than 400, I’m sure)


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