Helsinki Rejects Guggenheim Proposal…Again

This time it's final.

A rendering of the winning design by Moreau Kusunoki Architects, which will now never be built. Photo courtesy Design Guggenheim Helsinki.

A final decision has been reached to reject the proposal of a Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, after a third attempt to push the project through Helsinki City Council. The city will now focus instead on homegrown institutions.

The council debated an amended proposal—which suggested a $138 million price tag for the harborside project—for five hours before rejecting it with a vote of 53 to 32. The apparent final bid for the museum proposed a budget comprising a mixture of public and private money, plus a $10 million reduction in the licensing fee paid to the Guggenheim, to $20 million, for the use of their collection and resources.

“The main objections to the project presented by Council members included the project’s excessive cost for the Finnish taxpayer; inadequate private funding; and the proposed site, which was considered too valuable for the project,” said the Helsinki Council, according to the New York Times.

Richard Armstrong, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in New York, told NYT in an interview earlier this week, that he believed that the museum could raise the city’s cultural profile. He also said that he thought the museum would boost visitor numbers at other major cultural institutions in the city.

“I suppose that it was a reaction to a sense of engulfing internationalism, or a reaction against globalism,” he said after the vote. “That’s how I’m explaining it to myself…I think it’s unlikely that there would be any further activity.”

The proposal has been through many incarnations since the Guggenheim Foundation first asked the city to conduct a feasibility study in 2011. It included an architectural competition and reached the stage of a finished design. Key members of local businesses and the tourism community have been keen to see the project go ahead, but the consistent response from the authorities in Helsinki has been that the cost of the project was too high, and relied too heavily on the Finnish taxpayer.

“I’m exhausted but relieved,” Osku Pajamaki of the City Council, an opponent of the proposal, told the NYT. Continuing on a constructive note, he said, “Instead of buying a subsidiary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, we can now focus on creating unique local cultural attractions in Helsinki.”

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