Amos Rex: €50m art museum opens in Helsinki

Amos Rex, a €50m underground art museum  underneath a former bus station parking lot, has opened today in Helsinki. 

The privately funded Amos Rex features 2,200 sq m flexible exhibition space in an excavated space in the centre of town.

The museum’s director, Kai Kartio, said: “Art used to be something you hung on the wall and went respectfully to contemplate. Today it is increasingly interactive and conversational, something people make and experience together. We realised that if we wanted to meet the challenges of the future, we had to have something different from our charming old office building.”

JKMM Architects are behind the design of the museum, which has white domes emerging from the ground on its exterior. Exhibition halls have structural dome ceilings with skylights.

“It is as if the museum didn’t quite agree to go underground,” says Asmo Jaaksi of the local architecture firm, “and it’s somehow bubbling up into the square.”

Jaaksi said the “biggest challenge” was how to draw attention to the underground museum from above ground level. He said: “We wanted to have the square open but still draw people from aboveground to underground, so we came up with these domed forms, which try to be unto the building but not obtrusive.

The museum also utilises technology to improve the visitor experience. It features 140 projector and an entire room of supercomputers and servers.

There is a “digital ecosystem” of butterflies, frogs and geckos that responds to visitors movements. Kids can even draw their own animals, scan them in and seethem added to the fairytale forest. Visitors can squash the digital creatures to release splatters of paint.

The white mounds have been attracting attention from visitors since they were put in place. The architects hope the sloping landscape could be used as an auditorium for outdoor concerts and events.

Image courtesy JKMM

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