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International design competition for Finland's new museum of architecture and design seeks a high-quality, sustainable and surprising overall concept

Empty space in the city centre by the sea seen from the top of a hill.

Sami Saastamoinen

The design competition for the new national museum of architecture and design has been launched. The two-stage competition will conclude in September 2025, and the museum is due to open in the new building in 2030.

At the beginning of 2024, the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Design Museum Helsinki, with their internationally significant collections, merged with the Finnish Architecture and Design Museum Foundation, which has been established as the backing organisation for the new museum. 

In January, the Foundation published the museum's implementation plan, which describes the new museum's activities and objectives in broad terms. The programme for the design competition that has now been launched is based on the implementation plan and the preliminary project plan for the museum building.

“Helsinki has an international reputation for architecture and design that reflects the strong belief in good design as a means for living well that is present in all Nordic societies. We’re delighted to launch this international open competition to find an architect for the new museum of architecture and design. The open competition is a strong component of the tradition of architecture in Finland that opens the commission up to exciting concepts from designers at any stage in their career – from undiscovered talent to established names", says Kaarina Gould, CEO of The Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design.

Museum building by the sea

The new museum of architecture and design will be located in the regenerating Makasiiniranta area of Helsinki's South Harbour. Based on a design competition, the museum building will create a framework for top international museum activities and will form a new and vibrant centre and environment as part of the Makasiiniranta.

The total size of the museum building has been set at approximately 10 000 m², about half of which is public space. The budget for the museum project is around €105 million, of which the construction costs can be up to €70 million (at 2023 prices). The Helsinki City Council has approved a total capital injection of €60 million for the new architecture and design museum, and the Finnish government has confirmed its commitment to matching funding. In addition, the Foundation will raise at least €30 million from private sources.

The first phase of the design competition is looking for a functional overall concept and an overall design solution. The aim is to create a good museum experience that can cater for large numbers of visitors, to provide a framework for a wide range of exhibitions and programmes, and to enable the museum's collections to be displayed in an interesting and surprising way. In addition to an attractive core exhibition that tells the story of Finnish design and architecture, the museum will be able to host large international visiting exhibitions and large-scale multi-sensory installations. In addition, the museum building will provide spaces for events and workshops for different target groups, a library specialising in architecture and design, a water-front café-restaurant and a museum shop.

The competition programme, which sets out the boundary conditions and objectives of the design competition, asks participants to pay particular attention to minimising the carbon footprint of the building and to the urban landscape. The museum will be built as part of Helsinki's maritime national landscape and its valuable cultural environment.

“This new museum will enhance Helsinki’s global profile as a capital of design by placing the subject at the heart of the urban renewal of the South Harbour, one of the city’s most significant waterfront sites. We’re delighted to bring this project forward to create social benefits, provide new employment, attract international visitors and generate commerce in Helsinki”, comments Mikko Aho, Chair of the competition Jury and Vice Chair of Real Estate Company ADM.

A multidisciplinary and international jury

The 13-member design competition jury is made up of national and international experts in architecture, design, sustainable construction, museums and urban planning.

Chair: Mikko Aho, Architect SAFA, Real Estate Company ADM (Vice Chair of the Board)
Vice Chair: Juha Lemström, Architect SAFA, Real Estate Company ADM (Chair of the Board)
Gus Casely-Hayford, Director, V&A East
Beatrice Galilee, Architect, Executive Director, The World Around
Kaarina Gould, CEO, Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design
Salla Hoppu, Architect SAFA, Leading Architect, City of Helsinki
Beate Hølmebakk, Architect, Professor, Partner, Manthey Kula Architects
Riitta Kaivosoja, Director General, Ministry of Education and Culture, Department for Art and Cultural Policy
Matti Kuittinen, Architect SAFA, Associate Professor, Aalto University
Miklu Silvanto, Designer, AD Museum Ltd. (Member of the Board)
Anni Sinnemäki, Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment, City of Helsinki
Sari Nieminen, Architect SAFA, Architectural Office Sari Nieminen
Hannu Tikka, Architect SAFA, Professor, APRT Architects

Online competition seminar open to all interested

The first phase of the design competition has started on 15 April and will end on 29 August 2024, by which date participants must submit their competition proposals. The jury will select between 3 and 5 proposals from among those submitted by the deadline for the second phase of the competition, each of which will receive a prize of 50 000 euros. The total prize money awarded in the competition is up to 400 000 euros.

In February 2025, the second phase of the design competition will start, where proposals will be developed into feasible designs based on further design guidance from the jury. The second phase will end in May 2025 and the results of the design competition will be announced in September 2025.

The competition programme can be found on the design competition website through this link. The language of the competition is English. For more information on how to enter, please visit the competition website.

The competition seminar will take place as an open online event on 24 April 2024. Further information on the programme and how to participate in the seminar will be published on the competition website closer to the date.

The competition is organized by the Real Estate Company ADM, owned by the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland and the Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design, in collaboration with the City of Helsinki and the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA). Strategic partners for the museum project are DVDL Cultural Planners (New York) and Haahtela Group.