Helsinki art stinker junked!

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Winning entry for proposed Guggenheim Helsinki. (Moreau Kusunoki  Architectes)

The proposed Guggenheim Helsinki just went belly up, glug, glug, glug, after a five-hour meeting of the Finnish capital’s city council, which put the kibosh on a project one opponent called “a McDonald’s of art.”

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported the decision today in “Guggenheim Helsinki museum plans rejected by city council.” I devoted five (5) posts to this in 2014 and 2015, bemoaning the absence of any of the 1,715 entries in a design competition (and I looked at virtually all of them) that paid any attention at all to its setting on Helsinki’s waterfront.

The museum, conceived as a series of charred timber pavilions, would have cost $138 million, with the biggest chunks coming from the city and private donations after Finland’s government torpedoed plans for a state contribution. Many Finns were miffed that the not-exactly-penniless Guggenheim Foundation would be charging them over $1 million a year to use “Guggenheim” in the museum’s name.

Many of Finland’s arts community imagined benefiting from another “Bilbao effect,” anticipating an economic boom from architects visiting the latest piece of iconic modernism. They seem not to have got the memo that no “Bilbao effect” has been sighted anywhere around the world since Frank Gehry’s über-goofy Guggenheim Bilbao opened up in Spain.

It is regrettable that few of the proposal’s many opponents seemed to object to the design, by the Paris-based firm of Moreau Kusunoki, on aesthetic grounds. The “McDonald’s of art”  jibe referred to its being basically a franchise of the famous foundation, based in New York City.

But hey, any port in a storm. It’s good to see a major assault on the beauty of a great city rejected for any reason, and by its own city council to boot!

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Helsinki, Finland (

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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