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Next Helsinki

2015 Guggenheim counter-proposal





(Jean-Luc Godard, Pierrot le fou, 1962)





»Life, above all else, was missing. Then the mother, well reflecting, spake these words in bitter weeping:'From these fragments, with my magic, I will bring life to my hero'« -- Kalevala rune number XV, Lemminkäinen’s Restoration[1]


We are the mothers and our hero is the city of Helsinki.

How do we begin the process of bringing fresh life to our hero — the city?


In the pursuit of his object of desire, Lemminkäinen pays a bitter price. Seduced and blinded by an idea — he forgets his roots, home territory, and traditions, and is willing to fullfill tasks that prove fatal. His mother undertakes what mothers often do—she acts resourcefully to reduce her son’s hardship and brings him back to life. She offers unconditional love and great wisdom.

The mother expresses her wish to rejoin and reanimate her son's fragments. »Flesh to flesh with skill she places, gives the bones their proper stations, binds one member to the other … knits the parts in apposition.«


The existing city structure can be read as a tapestry that grows over time, and a place where new areas grow next to the ones overstrained, missing, neglected or void. We mothers shrink from the notion of working with great, extraneous gestures that come from “outside” in order to bring new life. We seek, rather, to first understand what lies within before we start to intervene, refresh, re-work and re-arrange; »... and what happens next?«: EXCHANGE.


Solutions to both global and highly localized problematics regarding contemporary cultural production and urban development will be only feasible if we thoroughly reflect upon the weaknesses and strengths of our own values and heritage while simultaneously seeking a fundamental consensus of existing binding values and learn from them. Branding within these terms seems an inappropriate method.





We begin the hero-city’s revitalisation by referring to the history of its urban meshwork and by connecting various isolated parts. We suggest to reintegrate Helsinki’s blind spots with a series of bold interventions. With this strategy, we mothers will be able to metaphorically »sew with care the wounds together« and to make certain that we do not »leave a part imperfect.«


Our concept proposes and anticipates movement in two directions:


I. Inland, city scape—renewal trough architectural interventions


II. Waterborne, floating space—vessels on water as embassadors for art, cultural production and exchange


Our methodology: architectural montage. Existing structures, resources and fragments will be renegotiated and renewed. Others will be fresh—based on core ideas that will form new constructs which contribute to this perennially-growing tapestry.


Four of our measures allude to various fragments of the hero's ruptured body.


Timber-rafts and arcade-passages (see plates 1 and 2) densify Helsinki's spatial pattern; they enfold within the city-scape elevating and invigorating existing axial movements.


The stairs (see plate 3) function as a greek arena facing the spectacle within the mirage—port of Helsinki—which pays tribute to the beauties of the »city dancing by the water«[2], the white and the black swan.


Positioned along the extended axis of the arcade-passages and starting at the observatory—the pivotal point of the project—the stairs follow a gentle downward motion towards the landing of our waterborne embassador, the boat HERO-CITY

(see plate 5).


If we proceed to make a quarter turn to the right at our pivotal point, a funnel shaped park spreads down to mattolaituri which is the heart of our project—the literal place for exchange , cleansing, and renewal—overlooking a beautiful site yet to be explored, the artlandings (see plate 4).



[1] The Kalevala; THE EPIC POEM OF FINLAND,into English by John Martin Crawford, Cincinnati 1904, Robert Clark Company, all references from Rune XV.

[2], introduction Michael Sorkin.



Project team:


UNDEND — URS EGG, CHRISTIAN MEILI — Architectural interventions


plates 1 to 5    travelogue    





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