Plans Halted for Guggenheim Helsinki as Project Cut From Government Budget

Does Helsinki need a Guggenheim?

Guggenheim Helsinki's proposed site. Photo Courtesy: Ari Wiseman.
Guggenheim Helsinki's proposed site. Photo Courtesy: Ari Wiseman.

Plans for Guggenheim Helsinki have been put on ice as the Finnish government have cut the project from its budget.

In June 2015, architects at Moreau Kusunoki revealed a truly stunning design for a new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, the Finnish capital. Applications were opened by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the first time ever, two years ago, for designers to submit their proposals for the project, which received a large response of 1,715 applications from 77 countries. Yet ever since its first proposal was submitted in 2011 it has met with political opposition, which is now threatening  to completely derail the project which has now been omitted from the Government budget.

Rendering of the museum restaurant with view of the harbour. Photo Courtesy: Design Guggenheim Helsinki

Rendering of the museum restaurant with view of the harbour. Courtesy: Design Guggenheim Helsinki.

It does not come as a surprise at a time when austerity measures are being implemented all across Europe, and as a result, the nationalist Finns party has ruled to block the state funding for the entire project. In 2012 the Guggenheim Foundation had speculated a total budget of €120-140 million ($134-156 million), and during budget talks held in the Finnish capital last week, the Finns vehemently objected to the government having to undertake €40 million in costs.

“This is the end of the matter, we have ruled out state funding [for the Guggenheim] once and for all, for this government,” declared Sampo Terho, the parliamentary leader of the Finns party, to Reuters in response to the decision.

Opinion remains divided, however, as supporters of the project believe that the museum will stimulate the cultural economy of the capital, and thus be good for tourism and the culture industry of the whole country. An example used often is of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, which has seemingly helped to turn the Spanish city into an arts and culture hub.

Details from the winning Guggenheim Helsinki design. Photo Courtesy: Design Guggenheim Helsinki.

Details from the winning Guggenheim Helsinki design. Courtesy: Design Guggenheim Helsinki.

The Guggenheim foundation is still optimistic about the future, deputy director Ari Wiseman told Reuters, “We understand it takes time. That said, we are disappointed that the project was not included in the budget.”

The Finnish economy has been in trouble for over a decade and the government has been pushing for a multi-billion austerity plan to curtail its public debt increase but talks between the government and those at Guggenheim continue.

“The project is extremely important for Finland and it’s a real shame if it collapses,” said Ari Tolppanen, chairman of Finnish hotel group Kamp Collection Hotels to Reuters. “The state would be by far the biggest beneficiary of the project due to a boost on taxes and employment. It is difficult to find any losers here.”


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