Asif Kan only Brit on a list chosen from record 1,715 entries

Six teams have been shortlisted to design the Guggenheim Helsinki with Asif Khan the only UK practice to make the final cut.

Khan is perhaps best known for his Coca Cola Beatbox pavilion at the London 2012 Olympics and is among the six finalists whittled down from a record 1,715 entries that were received from more than 75 countries. It is the Guggenheim’s first open design competition and is being run by Malcolm Reading Consultants.

The six names were announced this morning at a press conference in the Finnish capital. Images of their schemes were also unveiled but without attribution.

The finalists will all now be asked to work up their proposals for the second-round deadline in March. A final winner will be announced in June and will receive $100,000. The five runners-up will get $75,000.

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, said: “As we saw from the unprecedented response to Stage One of the competition, this open, independent process has brought to Helsinki exciting, innovative design ideas from all over the world.

“The jury has chosen six deeply thoughtful design approaches, each of which opens extraordinary possibilities for a Guggenheim in Helsinki and asks us to imagine what a museum of the future can be.’

Whether or not the gallery will actually be built remains uncertain. The city will not decide whether to approve the idea until after the winner has been picked.

There is a certain amount of hostility from Finns partly because of concerns about the cost. The funding model is still up for negotiation between city and Guggenheim.

A rival competition, The Next Helsinki, has been launched by the writer Michael Sorkin and a collective of Helsinki artists who argue the South Harbour site needs a solution that is better knitted into the fabric and culture of the city. Their jury, announced yesterday, will include Greenwich School of Architecture head Neil Spiller. The deadline for submissions is March 2.

Supporters of the Guggenheim proposal say the cost will be repaid in three years by tax receipts from the museum itself plus the money generated through an anticipated increase in tourism.

Deputy mayor for planning and real estate Hannu Penttila told journalists: “Much depends on this competition because the result has to be more than excellent.

“It has to be in the hearts of the people in Helsinki. In that case it will happen. If it’s not totally excellent you won’t see it in Helsinki.”

Asked if he was confident the shortlist had the potential for excellence, he said: “Let’s say it’s interesting.”

“Any project of this scale is bound to be met by scepticism,” said Tina Vaz, director of communications for the Guggenheim’s global operations, adding the original New York gallery faced hostility at first.

“This is different from anything we have done before. Any Guggenheim in the past has been a straight commission or an invited competition.

“We hoped the combination of Helsinki and the Guggenheim would prove compelling and 1,715 entries shows it was irresistible to many architects.

“We are committed to this project and we are committed to public debate and have tried really hard to create public discourse opportunities.”

What the gallery will hold is “still developing”, said Vaz, who insisted it would have a wholly “Finnish sensibility”. It will be run by Finnish curators, in collaboration with the Guggenheim Foundation’s specialists.

The Guggenheim’s newly appointed curator of architecture and digital initiatives, Canadian Troy Therrien, has been put in charge of next spring’s exhibition showcasing the shortlisted designs.


Shortlist in full

  • AGPS Architecture (Zurich, Switzerland and Los Angeles, United States of America)
  • Asif Khan (London, United Kingdom)
  • Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (New York, United States of America; Barcelona, Spain; and Sydney, Australia)
  • Haas Cook Zemmrich STUDIO2050 (Stuttgart, Germany)
  • Moreau Kusunoki Architect (Paris, France)
  • SMAR Architecture Studio (Madrid, Spain and Western Australia)