Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art
Steven Holl Architects
Kiasma is located in the heart of Helsinki at the
foot of the Parliament building to the west, with Eliel Saarinen's
Helsinki Station to the east, and Alvar Aalto's Finlandia Hall to
The horizontal light of northern latitudes is enhanced by a waterscape that serves as an urban mirror, thereby linking the museum to Helsinki's Töölö heart, which on a clear day, in Aalto's word's, "extends to Lapland." This water extension from Töölö Bay intertwines with and passes through the museum.
The concept of Kiasma involved the building's mass intertwining
with the geometry of the city and landscape which are reflected in
the shape of the building. An implicit cultural line curves
to link the building to Finlandia Hall while it also engages a
"natural line" connecting to the back landscape and Töölö
Kiasma provides a variety of spatial experiences. The general
character of the rooms, which are almost rectangular with one wall
curved, allows for a silent yet dramatic backdrop for the
exhibition of contemporary art. These rooms are meant to be
silent, but not static; they are differentiated through their
The slight variation in room shape and size due to the gently
curving section of the building allows natural light to enter in
several different ways. This asymmetrically drives movement
through a series of spatial sequences. In this regard the
overall design becomes a slightly warped "gallery of rooms," where
the spatial flow emerges from the combination of the horizontal
light-catching section and the continuity of the internal
The dynamic internal circulation, with its curving ramps and
stairs, allows for an open interactive viewing, inspiring the
visitor to choose his or her own route through the galleries.
Unlike a hierarchical sequenced or ordered movement, this
open-ended casual circulation provokes moments of pause,
reflection, and discovery.
The curved roof allows secondary skylights while horizontal
light is deflected down through the section along the center.
Thus natural light is able to penetrate both upper and lower
levels. The curved roof section with its "refracting"
skylight introduces another means for distributing light to
galleries below the top level.
Through care in development of details and the materials, the Kiasma provides a dynamic yet subtle spatial form, extending towards the city in the south and the landscape to the north. The geometry has an interior mystery and an exterior horizon which, like two hands clasping each other, form the architectonic equivalent of a public invitation. Referring to the landscape the interiors are reversible; and form the site which, in this special place and circumstance, is a synthesis of building and landscape...a Kiasma.
In the landscape plan, extending the bay up to the building
provided an area for future civic development along this tapering
body of water, which also serves as a reflecting pool for Finlandia
Hall and new development along the south edge of the water.
Facts about Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art
Building Area (square): 130000m2 / 12077m2
Finnish Ministry of Public Building
Insinööritoimisto Olof Granlund OY
Tauno Nissinen OY
Tauno Nissinen OY
Fire technical Consultants:
Markku Kauriala Ltd
Engineering Office Aulis Bertin, Ltd
Arkkitehtitoimisto Alpo Halme
Theatrical Technical Consultants:
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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