The Estonian National Museum Realized

 

A Former Soviet Airstrip in the Service of Estonian Cultural History

 

 

In 2005 the Estonian government decided to stage an international competition as a means of selecting a design for a new National Estonian Museum. Since there was already a Museum of Estonian History in Tallinn, the capital, one might assume

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Estonian National Museum Competition (2006)

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M20 – Museum of 20th Century Extension Competition

 

This is not what we fought for!

 

by Wilfried Wang*

 


Winning design: ©Herzog & de Meuron

 

Wilfried Wang’s commentary on the competition results for the extension of Mies’s Museum of the 20th Century (M20) was published in the German journal, Bauwelt (40.2016). The author is the founder of the Berlin architectural practice Hoidn Wang Partner with Barbara Hoidn and has been the O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin since 2002. The text, translated by the Editor, is a slightly modified version (by the author) that appeared in Bauwelt.

 

Both in architectural and urbanistic terms, the jury’s misguided selection of the Herzog de Meuron entry as the winner of the M20 competition is another missed opportunity for Berlin.


By extending the form of this introverted structure to cover the entire competition site, little or no value is added to the immediate environs. To the contrary, that and the immense surfaces of the facades, right up to the edge of the pedestrian walkways, only serve to diminish the importance of the surrounding buildings. All the trees to the south of the site will disappear, and 90% of the outer walls of the building, regardless of the suggested use of porous brick detailing, are completely closed off. Only the eastern entrance of the Herzog de Meuron plan faces the main entrance of Scharoun’s State Library; the other two main entrances lack any such connection with the urban context. Thus, the Cultural Forum gains nothing in urban quality, but rather the sense of desolation will increase.

 

The corridors stacked over one another, labeled “Boulevards” by the architects, are connected in the quadrants by smaller corridors and stairs. The metaphor, “Boulevard,” is as misleading as was Le Corbusier’s “rue intérieur.” Boulevards are accessible 24 hours a day as open public spaces. In the evenings these corridors will be closed to the public.

 

Rectangular exhibit areas are placed on three levels—not easily accessible to the visitor as a result of the labyrinth-like circulation plan. What is so innovative about this? The Goetz Pavilion was innovative.

 

Viewed from an artistic- and architecture-historic point of view, the selection of this design was an egregious mistake. First of all, a gable roof design is not appropriate for this Cultural Forum, and, secondly, it does not express the modern spirit; actually it is quite the opposite. Originally, the Cultural Forum was not only West Berlin’s gesture to the East, but also an attempt to replace the Nazi north-south axis with a modern alternative.

 

The lack of sensitivity, unnecessary haste followed by yearlong inaction and a desire for label-architecture have strangely culminated in a provincial selection. The shortlisted designs from the initial open competition were more modern, sensitive, and led one to assume that a different solution would be in store.

 

If this design were actually to be built, this unfortunate selection process would result in a catastrophe. This reminds me of the competition for the City of Culture for Santiago de Compostela. In that instance I was the sole juror to vote against the Eisenman scheme. Then my arguments fell on deaf ears. I was not a juror in the M20 competition. For this reason, I’m thankful that I can air my concerns about this result; however, I believe that my concerns will once again suffer the same fate. -WW

 


*The following should be pointed out: For his Master’s degree in 1981, the author researched six cultural centers—amongst others, London’s South Bank Centre, Paris’ Centre Beaubourg and Berlin’s Kulturforum. In 1992 the author published a monograph on the work of HdM. The author was a member of the jury for the limited competition for the extension of the Basel Kunstmuseum, which was unanimously awarded to Gigon & Guyer; HdM was one of the five invited architects. In 2013 the author published a monograph on Scharoun’s Philharmonie, therein his essay on “The Lightness of Democracy.” As part of his activities in the Architecture Section of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the author was co-organizer of a number of public discussions on the development of the Kulturforum, in which politicians and representatives of the Prussian Cultural Foundation (the users of M20) participated. In 2014 and 2015 the author set the design of M20 as a test for advanced design studios. Finally, the competition entry for the first phase of the M20 selection process by the author’s office was eliminated in the first round: www.hoidnwang.de/04projekte_53_de.html.

 

 


View of site from Mies van der Rohe’s Museum of the 20th Century to Hans Sharoun’s Berlin Philharmonic
Photo: Stanley Collyer

 

The above photo of the M20 site makes abundantly clear the difficult challenges facing the architects who tried to produce an acceptable solution for the extension of the Mies museum. One might normally assume that a grand plaza would have been an appropriate answer. However, an extension of the M20 came into the conversation when a major art collector offered the collection to the museum in its enirety—necessitating more exhibit space.So the solution to this expansion had to lie in a design competition.

 

First of all, the very presence of two easily recognized architectural icons facing each other across the site would normally be enough to intimidate anyone. So the initial question in the back of everyone’s mind would have been: should this addition simply constitute a link between the two buildings; or should it be something more?


Organized in two stages, the first, anonymous stage was open internationally and resulted in eight finalist entries advancing to a second stage (http://competitions.org/2016/02/berlins-20th-century-art-museum-competition/?preview_id=18468&preview_nonce=20af7e537d&_thumbnail_id=-1&preview=true). From the 480 competition entries, one would have assumed that at least one entry would have been convincing enough to gain favor not only from the jury, but also the community. The addition of this second stage was to accommodate short-listed name firms, so there could be no complaints that high-profile, established architects were not part of the mix. Based on the final rankings from the second stage, none of the premiated designs really solved this challenge satisfactorily. Most tried to recognize the importance of a sightline between the two icons by going at least partially underground.

 


Site diagram

 

 

The two firms that took this most to heart were both from Japan—SANAA and, no surprise, Sou Fujimoto, with the latter covering the entire partially submerged structure with vegetation. The second-place winner from Denmark found favor from the main client with what looked to be very commercially looking solution, what one might imagine as an outdoor shopping center. The most extreme anti-urbanistic example honored by the jury with a merit award was OMA’s pyramid-like scheme, completely blocking any relationship between Mies and Sharoun by inserting their own icon in between the two.

 

When Herzog & de Meuron’s design was declared the winner, it had to come as somewhat of a surprise. Structurally no more than a shed in appearance, it seemed to be completely out of character with all of its neighbors—almost thumbing its nose at them. The abundant use of brick, its blank facade facing the street, and the claim by the authors that the corridor cut through the middle as a “boulevard” would serve as a symbolic link between the Museum and Philharmonie, was hardly convincing. This is especially true when one realizes that it would be closed off evenings to all comers. As an urbanistic solution and example of architectural expression, the winner unfortunately fell flat on its face. -Ed

 

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New Museum of London in West Smithfield

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© Stanton Williams / Asif Kahn (courtesy MRC)
The challenge to design a new Museum of London in a very traditional context did not deter some of Europe’s premier modernists from entering this competition. The prize was the conversion of a building in the West Smithfield area, intended to anchor an important cultural district in the city. The new museum, which has a £130-150m construction budget, will secure the future of a series of much-loved heritage buildings at West Smithfield, help regenerate this historic part of the City of London and re-launch the museum, which has seen its audiences soar in recent years. Whereas other major capitals may only have one museum of history, the Museum of London already exists in other locations in the city, most notably in the Square Mile and the Docklands. But establishing a new museum in another location only serves to illustrate the wealth of historical materials accessible to the museum in its archives.

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Latvian Museum of Modern Art Competition


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©Adjaye Associates (UK) with AB3D Images courtesy Malcolm Reading Consultants.


Poland and the Baltic states have been playing cultural catch-up with the rest of the world ever since the former gained their independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989. These have included several high-profile competitions for museums in Poland, but also interesting projects in Estonia. Now Latvia and Lithuania are saying that they too should also have modern art museums on par with those in western Europe and Scandinavia. In Latvia, a movement to establish a modern art museum dates back to the early decade of the 21st century. It was then in 2005 that the ABLV Charitable Foundation, established by a local bank, provided endowment funds for purchasing modern art for a museum. They were joined in the museum project by The Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation, which was founded with the purpose of promoting culture.


Finland has always had close times culturally to the Baltic States, especially to Estonia, and the recent Guggenheim competition there could hardly have gone unnoticed by its southern neighbors. So it should come as no surprise that the Latvian sponsors engaged Malcolm Reading Consultants, the Guggenheim competition adviser, to organize their competition for the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art in the nation’s capital, Riga. Contrary to the Guggenheim competition, this time the finalists were the result of a closed shortlisting process.
They were:

  • Adjaye Associates (UK) with AB3D
  • Architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki (Finland) with MADE Arhitekti
  • Caruso St John Architects (UK) with Jaunromāns un Ābele
  • Henning Larsen Architects (Denmark) with MARK Arhitekti
  • Neutelings Riedijk Architects (Netherlands)
  • Sauerbruch Hutton (Germany) with Arhitekts Ingurds Lazdiņš
  • wHY Architecture (US) with Outofbox and ALPS

 

All of the shortlisted teams had at least some museum experience, and those having somewhat less exposure in this area could point to their expertise in a number of projects relating to the arts. Some had made their mark lately, most notably wHY architecture (US) and Lahdelma & Mahlamäki (Finnland), the latter having won the prestigious open competition for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. With the exception of Neutelings Riedijk Architects, all of the finalists included at least one local Latvian firm on their team. The ultimate competition winner, Adjaye Associates (UK), could bask in the huge amount of publicity generated by the September 2016 opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington D.C.


The competition in many ways resembled a linear exercise, mainly dictated by the site and program. In the end, Adjaye Associates very straightforward, logical approach to the program won the day for the London firm. Although there were not enough jury comments to suggest how the other finalist team(s) were ranked, only one, Sauerbruch Hutton, was given a “mention’, although it was not to be considered as a ranking.

The museum will be built as part of New Hanza City, a new district at a former railway goods station in a northern district of Riga. Comprising 24.5 hectares, the development also will inclulde offices, apartments, a hotel, a nursery school and a public garden.

 

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More Variations on a Theme in Dessau?: Germany’s Third Post-War Competition for a Bauhaus Museum

More Variations on a Theme in Dessau?

Germany’s Third Post-War Competition for a Bauhaus Museum

by Stanley Collyer

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First prize by Young & Ayata with Misako Murata (image courtesy Bauhaus Museum)

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Germany is not about to let the world arts community forget about the unique role played by the Bauhaus movement in the evolution of modern art and architecture. There is already a Bauhaus Archive in Berlin, moved there from Darmstadt in 1971, and the building it now resides in was completed in 1979. It is hardly recognizable from Walter Gropius original 1964 intended design, except for the shed roofs.

Since the Berlin Archive can only accommodate 35% of the institution’s holdings, a competition was staged there in 2005 to expand the capacity of the site. The invited architects for that competition were Diener & Diener (Basel), Nageli Architekten (Berlin), SANAA (Tokyo), Sauerbruch & Hutton (Berlin) UN Studio (Amsterdam), and Volker Staab (Berlin). SANAA was chosen as the winner, but the City withdrew its support from that project in the wake of the world economic crisis in 2009.

In 2012 a Bauhaus Museum competition took place in Weimar, where the Bauhaus was originally founded under Gropius in 1919. That competition was won by the Berlin architect, Heike Hanada, with Benedict Tonon. The new building, which will replace the existing Bauhaus Museum in Weimar, is to be completed by 2018.

After the Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau, where the Bauhaus resided until the 1930s when the Nazis came to power and where the main building by Walter Gropius has achieved iconic status, a recent international competition for its own Bauhaus Museum took place. Although one may assume a lot of overlay between these three museums as to exhibits, the plan for the new museum in Dessau could be deemed somewhat of a logical move, as the present school is still located there, setting the tone for the ‘international style’ we now are so familiar with.

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The Guggenheim Helsinki Competition Draws 1,715 Entries From Around The World

The Guggenheim Helsinki Winners on Stage in New York

By Jayne Merkel

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Winning Entry by Moreau Kusunoki Architectes

The soothing circular auditorium beneath the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s New York Guggenheim Museum was an unusually suitable setting for the revelation of the winning design for the proposed Helsinki Guggenheim and a discussion of the process that led to its selection. On July 1, the winners of the competition, Hiroko Kusunoki and Nicolas Moreau, of Moreau Kusunoki Architectes in Paris, took turns describing their scheme as they showed an impressive series of drawings and models. After their presentation, they joined a discussion, moderated by Architectural Record Editor Cathleen McGuigan, with Guggenheim staff members Ari Wiseman and Troy Conrad Therrien. Wiseman, a Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, has shepherded the competition from the conception stage in 2013. Therrien, the Curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives, has created the state-of-the-art digital archive that has brought this competition and its entries into the public domain.

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A Conversation with an Icon: Steven Holl Wins the Mumbai City Museum Competition

A Conversation with an Icon

Steven Holl Wins the Mumbai City Museum Competition

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Winning entry by Steven Holl

The decision to stage an international competition for a “North Wing extension” to the Mumbai City Museum had to be an interesting challenge for the organizers. The present building, also known as the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (photos, left and opposite), was dedicated in 1872 and had a distinct English colonial flavor, with emphasis on the Victorian. It had recently undergone a major restoration, and the interior is certainly one of the major examples of architecture of the pre-modern age in India. With that in mind, the initial question for any structural addition—aside from space requirements—had to be: what should it look like, and how would it relate to the existing museum?

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Science and Fiction Museum, Washington, DC

Science Fiction Museum, Washington, DC

By Stanley Collyer

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1st Place entry by Emily Yen (image copyright Emily Yen)

The recently completed Science and Fiction Museum competition in Washington, DC is not unusual, in that it contemplates the marriage of literature and architecture in one location, as do libraries. It is different in that it deals with a very specialized theme, much as the Poetry Museum in Chicago. Still, Science Fiction is a relatively recent phenomenon in literature, but has rapidly gained a large audience. Although there is already such a facility in Seattle, it was time that an institution focusing on this subject to be located in our nation’s capital—a primary destination for tourists.

To start, this emerging non-profit has been seeking a site in Washington, DC, and, until that occurs, is planning an easily accessible temporary structure, which can be moved from one location to another—the subject of this 2014 design competition.

The competition drew 121 entries from all over the world, with the first- and second-place winners residing in the U.S. The entries were adjudicated by a largely local jury from the Washington, DC area. And the competition was ably administered by local architect, Jerry Vanek.

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A Cultural Anchor in Wine Country: The UC Davis Art Museum Competition

A Cultural Anchor in Wine Country

The UC Davis Art Museum Competition

by Larry Gordon

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Winning entry by SO-IL (Photos: ©Regents of the University of California, Davis)

The University of California at Davis is a sprawling, well-regarded campus that is probably best known for its contributions to agricultural research that aids the nearby big farms in the Central Valley and growers worldwide. Not as widely known is that UC Davis has a strong arts program and a large art collection, particularly of prints, watercolors and ceramics. For example, contemporary painter Wayne Thiebaud (creator of those lusciously bright paintings of cakes, lollipops and farm landscapes) taught there and has donated many of his own and others’ work to the university. The school also has a trove of Old Masters’ prints from the 17th through 19th Century.

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