The Guggenheim is planning a new museum in Helsinki. The site is in the heart of the city, next door to the late 19th Century market hall and open-air market place, two minutes from Helsinki Cathedral. The project, therefore, has great landmark potential for the city. And many Finns are lured by this very potential, wanting to increase tourism and put their capital city more evidently on the world map. There has also been discussion in the country’s main newspaper Helsingin Sanomat about how Finns should welcome a more joyous and fun architecture.
Destination-creation and architecture as entertainment are certainly strong themes of our times. They were treated with great artistry by Frank Gehry with the Bilbao Guggenheim, opened in 1997. However, it’s important to remember that the Bilbao Guggenheim might best be considered a spectacular one-off. Mayors, politicians and world leaders have since sought, in perhaps too facile a way, to rebrand their cities and countries with iconic landmarks. There has been much talk of making cities “world class” through such architectural gestures, and yet much of this marketer’s fodder is wholly out of touch with what makes great architecture great.