Intruder at Gugg party

Entry by Nil Buras into the international competition for a new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki.

Domed building at center by classicist in competition for a new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki.

On Halloween I posted a link to all 1,700-plus entries, from 77 nations, in the international design competition for a proposed Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki. I scanned reams of thumbnails, hoping to find among them one that struck me as an entry of classical or traditional style. Each thumbnail being approximately a mere three quarters of an inch square, I had to rely upon a sort of visual speed intuition. I clicked about 30 thumbnails, which expanded to about an inch and a half square, allowing a slightly more detailed look, which could be clicked again for a full view of several images and text from each entry. Few were tempting enough to lure me beyond an initial click – mostly due to a somewhat perverse desire to ascertain the degree of a submission’s outlandishness. Most thumbnails appeared quite evidently so without recourse to enlargement. Reluctant to even begin a full investigation of such infinitesimally small promise of a traditional entry, I left the vast bulk of submissions completely unexamined. I promised myself that I would investigate further at some future but unpinpointed time. And I may even do so.

Meanwhile, I have learned that at least one renegade classicist has infiltrated the Guggenheim screening process. Entry GH-2344762056, submitted by a resident of one of the 77 nations, is titled “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (referring to Magritte’s pipe painting) and is thematically described thusly:

Synonymous with the interplay between architecture and art the Guggenheim Foundation reaffirms that art effects change. Facing the greatest change in its history, Helsinki can reinforce its identity not just for a “cool” tomorrow but through long-term sustainable placemaking: less by outside avant-garde and more by an expression of civic values and true democracy.

There is no progress in building “yet another Guggenheim” when society knows that technology and modernization’s negative impacts can no longer be remediated by “technological fixes.” The Guggenheim must innovate. This project exemplifies how innovation ventures into the borderline to find the edges that others may not see, including redefining our “old” and “new.”

This building humbly relies on master craftsmanship and skillful engineering, on understanding “what is” and new potentials. Depending on the sun and moon, it dramatically varies from minimalism to expression to delicately balance Time’s transitions.

I have no comment, except to speculate whether a tincture of irony has made it into the architect’s discourse, irony that soars well above your dutiful correspondent’s head. The link above takes you to the illustration that tops this post, then to a rendering of the interior of the building’s domed central space, and then to the just-recited thematic description. One wishes our intruder the best of luck. Yet one also inclines to note that one enters his entry, as one enters the rest of this competition’s first round, at one’s own risk!

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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