In the year 1967, in the introduction of the Italian edition of Architecture: essai sur l'art by Boullée, Aldo Rossi quotes Diderot’s Essay on Paintings: «If I had to design Luis XV’s place where it is, I would have been sure not to cut down the trees. I would have preferred that one lives within the depth and obscurity between the columns of a great peristyle».
Rossi comments: «The large place by Diderot-Boullée, the gigantic arcade of these urban monuments, opened towards the depth of the wood, grows and welds the thread of architecture in a general framework which belongs to it: nature, the human being, the building of the city».
City and Nature, opposed as the rational grid of Helsinki historic center against the sea water contained by the harbour docks: artifice and nature mediated by imagination.Our museum, a double body, aligned to the grid, reflects this opposition: a bare structural frame, bearing an urban outdoor ramp on one side, close to the existing block; on the other side towards the water, a suspended wooden volume slightly shifted on a twin frame. The space in between, a narrow void, is aligned with Katariinankatu, so that the new Guggenheim Museum is projected inside the Senate Square.
At the sea level, the bare frame and its ramp embrace a public piazza, transforming this from outdoor exhibitions space to flooded area for swimming in summer and ice skating in winter, through moveable bulkheads. At level +8.10 the open ramp makes visitors enter the museum, organized as an indoor promenade architecturale starting in the opposite suspended volume and sinking through an escalator to an underground lobby, a gipsoteque and a hypogeal patio.
At +8.10 level, instead of entering the museum, visitors can continue their route along the outdoor ramp, experiencing a urban promenade to enjoy monuments and landscapes until the rooftop garden, where a further outdoor exhibition space, a bar, a restaurant and a panoramic terrace take place. The frames’ rational alignment with the city grid is contested by two architectural details: the minor shift of the suspended volume of the museum, which produces engraved surfaces on two façades, conversely revealing the frame on the other two ones; and the internal torsion of the elements of the frame, softer in the heart of the volume and stiffer on the façades, characterized by incremental measures of their spans.
Neither a classical and authoritative attitude nor an arbitrary and authorial one can dominate the architectural and urban composition. With reference to the competition boundary, neither an absolute nor a “sprezzatura” condition, as described by Manfredo Tafuri in his last book Interpreting the Renaissance, can be the dominant one.
The twin bodies of the building overlook both the city of Helsinki, in an unprecedented framings, and the world of art, architecture and design, offering exhibition indoor and outdoor spaces: what will be a new symbol of the city, frames in turn new multiple urban images and cultural readings.