Helsinki, Finland – JKMM have won the “New National” two-stage anonymous design competition for the extension of the National Museum of Finland organised by The Finnish Heritage Agency, the National Museum of Finland and Senate Properties. The Helsinki-based practice’s proposal, called “Atlas”, was selected for 1st place from a total of 185 entries which included large number of proposals from outside Finland.
The existing museum building is by the celebrated studio Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, Eliel Saarinen and is a major landmark in Helsinki and one of Finland’s finest examples of National Romantic architecture. The trio won the competition in 1902 and were a selected from a group of 15 entrants.
The 2019 competition brief focussed on offering: additional exhibition space; workshops; a new restaurant in the museum’s underused enclosed garden; and improved access including an inviting new entrance for the Museum. It was also important that the new Museum extension will support a dynamic programme of events whilst working in tandem with the existing building.
The distinctive round disc-shaped white 1,320 square metres concrete roof within the stone walled garden of the Museum is, in fact, so simple, geometric and even primeval in its form that it has an instantly universal appeal.
It was important to JKMM that the new addition to the Museum is independent of the original building and that it respects the historic garden designed by Lindgren. The freestanding sculptural quality of “Atlas” addresses these concerns by creating a pavilion-like structure in keeping with traditions of building types found in park-like settings.
Underneath the cantilevered 2,000 ton concrete roof, the new ground floor restaurant will face the sunniest aspect of the garden and can be used independently of the rest of the Museum, as suggested in the brief. Its walls are made of structural glass that curve around the extension creating a sense of a floating roof as well as introducing natural light to the floors below, where a generous protected stepped “public square” welcomes visitors and leads them to the new exhibition galleries and other spaces. The abundance of light plays an important role in the design and highlights the materiality and three dimensional qualities of the architecture, both in keeping with those of the original museum building.
The white colour of “Atlas” is a nod to Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall just visible from the site. It is also a way to introduce light into the streetscape particularly amidst the darkness of Finnish winter. The new arched point of entry piercing the original museum’s garden wall facing Mannerheimintie has been designed to attract visitors, yet it retains and plays on the mystery associated with what many describe as The National Museum’s secret garden. Passers-by will see ”Atlas” beckoning them behind the Museum’s garden’s stone wall giving it a subtle yet welcoming presence in the city.
In total, “Atlas” spans nearly 5,000 square metres which includes a 1,200 square metre exhibition space. The new exhibition galleries can also function as events spaces accommodating up to 1,200 visitors. The garden is 10,400 square metres and the existing museum together with its outbuildings 10,451 square metres. The new extension will amount to 4,975 square metres of gross area.