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International open competition launched to find a design team for the new museum of architecture and design in Helsinki, Finland

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 15.4.2024 12.30
News item
Photo of South Harbour, where the new museum will be located.
Photo: Sami Saastamoinen

The Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design, Real Estate Company ADM, the City of Helsinki and SAFA the Finnish Association of Architects have launched an international, open design competition to find a design team for a new 10,050 sq m (GFA) museum building in Helsinki South Harbour.

International open design competition

  • An international open design competition is launched to find a design team for a new museum building on a site in Helsinki's South Harbour. 

  • The building will provide a home for the new museum of architecture and design formed through the merger of the Design Museum Helsinki and the Museum of Finnish Architecture. 

  • The competition brief is published and the first stage of the competition opens on 15 April 2024. The competition runs in two phases, with the results being announced in September 2025. 

  • An online competition seminar, open to all interested participants, will be held on 24 April 2024. 

  • Three to five designs will be selected for Stage 2 of the competition, receiving an award of €50,000 euros each. In addition the jury will distribute three prize positions and two purchases totalling €150,000 at the end of the competition. 

The new museum of architecture and design in Helsinki, Finland, is planned to open in 2030 and will combine the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Design Museum Helsinki. These institutions were successfully merged in January 2024, and the new museum will retain and grow the staff of both its predecessors. 

The central mission of the new museum will be “democratising the tools of design”, drawing on the history and present of Finnish and Nordic architecture and design to guide a programme of public activities that will look at how design thinking and skills are relevant to the challenges we face as individuals and societies in a rapidly changing world. 

The newly-formed collection, focussed on Finnish architecture and design, will contain over 900,000 artefacts, including objects, correspondence, models and photographs documenting the work of internationally-famed practitioners such as Aino and Alvar Aalto, Eero Aarnio, Maija Isola, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Paavo Tynell, and design brands such as Marimekko, Nokia and Fiskars.

The new museum is made possible through significant public and private funding. In February 2024, The Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design announced that it had secured €120 million in public funding, half from the City of Helsinki and half from the State of Finland, to bring this new building project forward. This is supplemented by €30 million to be raised from private donors, with a €20 million donation secured from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.

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.

An online seminar, open to all interested participants, will be held on 24 April 2024. Details and instruction on joining the seminar can be found at the competition website, alongside the competition brief:

Kaarina Gould, CEO of The Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design, said:

“Finland has a rich and fascinating history of design that is deeply embedded in both our national identity and our living culture. That culture is expressed fully in Helsinki – a former World Design Capital, where public policy and private enterprise have worked together to build a knowledge economy based upon high-value, innovative activities that have design thinking at their heart. “
“We want to democratise the tools of design. The new museum of architecture and design will engage the public in activities and experiences that broaden the understanding of design as a tool that empowers people to participate actively as citizen designers. Successful designs for the museum will need to embrace and advance the model of the museum as a site for active engagement with ideas and practice, as much as for the display and interpretation of artefacts.” 

Mikko Aho, Chair of the competition Jury and Vice Chair of Real Estate Company ADM, said: 

“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.

“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.” 

The location for the new museum is a vacant former dockside site in Helsinki’s South Harbour, a historic waterfront area in central Helsinki close to landmarks including the City’s Market Square, Orthodox and Lutheran Cathedrals, and the busy Esplanade Park. The competition site and the area around it is a designated buffer zone of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. 

The competition brief calls for a new 10,050 sq m (GFA) building, with a roughly equal split in area for public and back-of-house uses. The total budget of the project is around €105 million, with construction costs of the museum not to exceed €70 million (price level Sept 2023). Construction is timetabled to complete by 2030. 

In line with the core proposition of “democratising the tools of design”, the museum is envisaged as a space to host exhibition activities that will be exceptionally diverse and dynamic, with space for the display of historical collections alongside contemporary design and architecture and a wide range of media. Spaces for events, conferences, workshops, a library and a water-front café-restaurant are also a key requirement of the brief. 

The open stage of the competition, Stage 1, calls for participants to keep their proposals to a conceptual level, with a request for proposals that put greater emphasis on the overall concept, rather than detailed plans and sections or photorealistic visualisations. Deliverables for Stage 1 are limited to a maximum of 12 A3 boards. The deadline for Entries to Stage 1 is 29 August 2024.

An international jury of leading architects, cultural experts and policymakers has been assembled to judge entries to the competition. At the end of Stage 1 of the competition, 3–5 entries will be selected to progress to Stage 2, where concepts will be developed into viable proposals. The entrants selected for Stage 2 of the competition will be notified in December 2024, with Stage 2 opening in February and running until the end of May 2025. The final result of the competition will be announced in September 2025. 

Each team selected for Stage 2 will receive a payment of €50,000 in two instalments: €30,000 at the beginning of Stage 2 and €20,000 on completion. At the end of the competition the Jury will award prizes of €50,000, €35,000 and €25,000 for first, second and third place, with purchase options of €20,000 for the remaining two designs.
Instagram:  @admuseo

The Competition Jury

  • 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

Eligibility Requirements in Stage 1 of the competition

Stage 1 of the competition (April 15–August 29, 2024) is open to individuals and design teams with the following eligibility criteria:

The lead designer must present the following personal qualifications:

  • A completed university level master’s degree in architecture
  • Confirm that they have the right to practise as an architect in their country of residence.
  • The person must be a resident of European Union countries or a resident of countries that are parties to The WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA 2012).

The design teams may also welcome members from countries that do not fall under the scope of the European Union and its procurement legislation.

For further information please contact ING Media:

Senior Account Manager Ben James, [email protected], tel. +44 (0)7534 970 728

For materials, images, and interview requests for Kaarina Gould and Mikko Aho:
Communications Planner Pyry Waltari, Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design, [email protected], tel. +358 40 183 9340