Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2018 finalist
The idea for Amos Rex Art Museum was launched in September 2013 when the foundation Konstsamfundet, which runs the Amos Andersson Art Museum, put forth a proposal to the City of Helsinki to build new museum facilities adjacent to the functionalistic gem Lasipalatsi (Glass Palace). JKMM Architects were commissioned to design the museum. The construction started in January 2016, and the museum was inaugurated in August 2018.
The clever design solution treats the old listed building with respect yet makes the contemporary architecture visible. The new spaces were excavated next to Lasipalatsi building, under a public square. The domes of the exhibition halls protrude from the square surface turning into mounds crowned by round skylights, thus creating an interesting topography to the square. In addition to being an art museum, Amos Rex has changed the Lasipalatsi Square into a new favourite spot in the heart of Helsinki.
The concrete dome structure of the exhibition halls, with a 30 metre span in the largest one, enables the lack of vertical supports, making the spaces very flexible for different kinds of exhibitions. The skylights create a connection between the museum and the square. The old chimney-stack standing in the middle of the square now serves as a ventilation shaft and fire escape.
The old Lasipalatsi building went through a gentle renovation with only minor changes such as a new staircase down to the exhibition halls. The main facade on Mannerheimintie street retained its original modernist appearance. The interior colour scheme follows the original tones. Since the building’s completion in 1936, the first floor has been occupied by Restaurant Lasipalatsi. Today, the restaurant interior is listed. The north wing of the complex is characterised by the shape of the legendary Bio Rex cinema, still used for film screenings, while the upper floor of the south wing is now occupied by the museum administration. The ground floor is for commercial premises.
The chief architect of Amos Rex is Asmo Jaaksi, also responsible for JKMM’s Think Corner and Turku and Seinäjoki libraries.
Extracts from the prize jury report:
The Amos Rex Art Museum is reminiscent of the optimism of the 1960s as well as today’s biomorphic architecture. The spaces and design introduce a new functional typology to Finnish architecture: the exhibition areas will not assume their final form until the artists hang their works, with the architecture playing a subordinated role as a backdrop. Amos Rex brings together the past, present and future creatively and intriguingly.