Finland's capital has gained a major new cultural institution and a striking public space with the completion of Amos Rex. The art museum has opened after a five-year, €50 million project designed by architecture firm JKMM, which has seen the refurbishment of the landmark 1930’s Lasipalatsi building in central Helsinki.
Special care was given to preserve original features that include the first external neon lighting in Finland. Detailed research from historical sources as well as analysis of material on-site, conducted in partnership with the Helsinki City Museum, also allowed JKMM to recreate a palette of materials and colours that are true to the original design.
At the heart of the museum, 13,000 cubic metres of rock has been excavated to create a new 2,200 sqm world-class flexible gallery space topped with a series of domes and skylights that form the new undulating landscape of the Lasipalatsi Square.
Bio Rex, the 590 seat cinema within the Lasipalatsi building has been restored to its 1930s glory and incorporated into the new institution, giving half of its name to create the Amos Rex identity.
From the foyer of the refurbished Lasipalatsi, visitors descend a staircase past a picture window that affords views over the public square, into the basement galleries.
The roof of the new gallery is formed by a series of domes with angled roof lights that frame views of the surrounding buildings and allow exhibitions to be lit with natural light if the curators choose. The shape of the domes is expressed in the topography of the newly landscaped public square which sits above the galleries, as a series of gently rolling forms clad in concrete tiles.
The existing restaurants and shops within the Lasipalatsi will continue to trade and will help contribute to the life and activity of the public square, which is a focal point for the social life of Helsinki city centre and one of the most important public spaces in the shopping and entertainment district. The square also provides an opportunity for Amos Rex to create a programme of outdoor events to support its gallery shows.
The gallery will be supported by world-class technical and storage spaces in an additional basement storey beneath the galleries, giving Amos Rex the necessary facilities to loan artefacts from other institutions internationally.
"Integrating one of Finland’s architecturally pioneering 1930s buildings – Lasipalatsi – as part of the Amos Rex project has been a moving experience," says Asmo Jaaksi, Founding Partner of JKMM. "By adding a bold new layer to Lasipalatsi, we feel we are connecting past with the present. We would like this to come across as a seamless extension as well as an exciting museum space very much of its time.
"The square adjacent to Lasipalatsi is one of the most important public spaces in Helsinki. We hope the newly landscaped Lasipalatsi Square with its gently curving domes will be received as a welcome addition to Helsinki’s urban culture; a place everyone and anyone in the city can feel is their own."