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Finland will use coronavirus stimulus to build a new architecture and design museum

Dreaming of Finland

Finland will use coronavirus stimulus to build a new architecture and design museum

The current home of Helsinki’s Design Museum, a former school building designed by Gustaf Nyström in 1894. (Ralf Roletschek/Wikimedia Commons)

While also warning of inevitable budget cuts and tax hikes, Finland’s finance minister earlier this week presented a fourth supplementary spending package of 5.5 billion euros ($6.23 billion) dedicated to coronavirus recovery efforts that invest heavily in well-being programs for young people, climate initiatives, education, and affordable housing projects. What’s more, a significant portion of the stimulus will be earmarked for sustainable public transport schemes. As relayed in a news report published by the country’s public broadcasting system Yle, the ultimate goal of the supplementary budget is, per transport and communication minister Timo Harakka, to “promote environmentally-friendly mobility by focusing on the development of municipal transport and high-speed rail projects within and between urban areas.”

On the arts and culture front, Finland’s latest supplementary budget will, as announced by science and culture minister Hanna Kosonen, also fund the creation of a new Museum of Architecture and Design in the capital of Helsinki. Yle noted that Kosonen said she “hopes the new museum will be built of wood in accordance with sustainable principles, and it will draw in a lot of visitors and create jobs.”

Dezeen reported that allocated funds for the Museum of Architecture and Design, which will bring together two neighboring but separate institutions, the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Helsinki’s Design Museum, will total roughly $68 million. An initial plan to bring together the two museums was first announced in the spring of last year.

“It is a significant decision when the state is so strongly committed to the realization of the new Architecture and Design Museum. In the museums, we are now focusing our efforts on playing our part in rebuilding Finland in the midst of the crisis that affects everyone. We will do our utmost to make the museum a place for everyone,” said Reetta Heiskanen, of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and Jukka Savolainen, of Design Museum in a joint statement.

After temporary closures to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, both museums officially reopened to the public earlier this month. Aided by a sizable stockpile of personal protective gear amassed since the Cold War era, widespread tracing and testing efforts, and restrictions that went into place before the country even experienced a single death from the virus, Finland has been largely successful in minimizing the impact of COVID-19. As of this writing, there have been 6,911 reported cases and 322 deaths. By comparison, neighboring Sweden, which initially took a more relaxed approach to safeguarding its citizens as the pandemic raged, has reported 4,562 deaths to date.

As for the new museum, it will be built on Helsinki’s South Harbour waterfront area near the city center—not too far from the location of the existing museums in the Kaartinkaupunki neighborhood—with the aim to “bring together the existing museums and their collections and create a new and globally unique place that would attract visitors from both home and abroad.” Both the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Design Museum are currently located in older buildings. The former has been housed in a stately, neo-classical structure built in 1899, since the early 1980s; the latter has been in its current location, a neo-gothic former high school designed by famed architect Gustav Nyström that was completed in 1894, since 1978. Both museums also boast remarkable longevity. The Museum of Finnish Architecture was established in 1956 and describes itself as being “among the oldest museums in the world to specialise in architecture.” Design Museum, which was formerly known as the Museum of the Applied Arts, is even older, having been founded in 1873.

“In the view of the museums, the next step is joint discussions with the Ministry of Education a Culture and the City of Helsinki, and to advance the project further towards the establishment of a project organization, as well as further development of the operating model,” elaborated Heiskanen and Savolainen.

The new Architecture and Design Museum is slated to open in 2025.