quiet animal GH-121371443
Solar Kitchen photo courtesy of Antto Melasniemi Bicycle photos courtesy of Johannes Romppanen
TACTILE LANDSCAPE In Helsinki public spaces are strongy identifiable by their texture. This is a language for demarcating one type of public space from another. Learning from Helsinki we extend two found textures to become our landscape. Our proposal in return brings one new texture. It is a delicately undulating glass membrane. Helsinki city blocks in the 1800s were named after wild animals. Through the use of texture the proposed new block will have the tactile familiarity of a pet’s fur. So we call this proposal “quiet animal”.
Unioninkatu still remains a street with a strong character, connecting the Southern parts of the town Centre to the Norhtern ones with a strong monumental statement in each end of the street – the Kallio Church and the observatory, both exemplary monuments of their kind and well admired and copied in Finland and beyond –, and many others in between. The waterfront for its part has still not become part of the city, and the existing promenades – even though popular – never have become what they could, follow second class routes and are ruined by the heavy traffic along them, and thus have, together with their surroundings always remained in the marginalia, as spaces of passing rather than staying and pacing up, rather than slowing down. The Guggenheim Helsinki site is in the centre of a lot of this marginalia and the museum has the possibility to make this site part of the city in a new way both through re-activating and re-iterating the past, as well as reimagining the future. The architecture of the site never really was, or it has always been temporary and accidental. The Eastern side of the Southern Dock Basin was first connected to the city monumentally with the Orthodox Cathedral, then with the beautiful storage buildings by the waterfront and later by the cranes, whose memories have already been forgotten, and Alvar Aalto’s masterly gesture to continue the neo-classical façade of the Esplanadi. The western side grew with its own pace from Engel’s subtle classicism and the delicately revivalist Market Hall to Revell’s celebration of Internationalism with the Palace hotel for the Olympics. Further south it always remained a place with only an odd passage unwillingly and unwittingly monumentalised with fake facades, first wooden ones in front of the Makasiinit, and later by iron and steel ones of the Cruise ships. How to make this place so close yet always so far part of the city? It could become simply a promenade, but it could be much more too. The Museum can make it what it truly ought to be, a place for recreation, and a place for both meditation and encounter. In order to do this, it needs to both continue the city, its pathways and alignments, but also to create new, and in order to connect, it first needs to invent the site, which previously never has been. It needs a gesture, and the gesture needs both to rhyme with the existing, and to create something new. The site acts a bridge between different parts of the city and as a continuation, balance and mirror for the facades of the Market Square, and the Katajanokka. Additionally, It has the capability of creating a waterfront, which would, for the first time be a waterfront for the people. It also has the capability of creating a new cultural focal point within the city, perhaps shifting the balance of the city the old squares for power and commerce, and towards the sea. Besides the waterfront, the site picks the shifts and the tilts in the historic grid and is at the end of a street, which never was, but perhaps could be. This street parallel to Unioninkatu is an oddity within the grid. It begins from arguably the most beautiful street in Helsinki, Sofiankatu, which in its alignment predates Ehrenström’s plan and gives a view of the Senate Square and the Cathedral slightly off the centre as if accidentally echoing the tilts and shifts that give the character to the whole centre. Now it ends in the other symbol of Helsinki, the spirit of the city and the sea, the beautiful Havis Amanda emerging from the sea as the City itself does, or rather, could do. The Guggenheim might re-activate this alignment and continue Sofiankatu, shifting the grid and taking it all the way to the Southern parts of Helsinki following the seaside, as it might re-establish and redetermine the connection to the sea, something natural to, yet underappreciated by the urbanism of Helsinki. Again, in order to do that, a gesture strong enough to charge and re-invent the site around it, yet quiet and subtle enough in its ways to revive and create connections with the city, its grids, its streets and above all its citizens, is needed.