Contest to design Helsinki Guggenheim draws flood of bids from round the world

HELSINKI (AFP) - The Guggenheim Foundation said on Wednesday that it had received a huge response to an open competition to design the future Guggenheim Museum in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

"We are awed and humbled by the tremendous response to the call for entries, and we look forward to engaging in a full and public exploration of the submissions in the coming months," the director of the US-based foundation said in a statement.

In what is its first-ever open call for museum design proposals, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has received 1,715 entries from 77 countries.

The Guggenheim Helsinki is due to join other Guggenheim art museums - famed for their cutting-edge architecture - in New York, Bilbao and Venice and the world's largest which is planned for Abu Dhabi.

The design proposals - submitted mainly by architects in the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Finland - will be judged anonymously.

An international jury will shortlist six proposals on December 2 and the winner - who will receive 100,000 euros in prize money - will be announced in June 2015.

According to the Guggenheim Foundation, the museum could attract 550,000 visitors annually.

Efforts to build a Guggenheim Museum in the Finnish capital have been plagued with funding problems and political opposition since a 2011 proposal was dropped due to concerns over the price tag, which would be partly met by the Finnish state.

In January the city of Helsinki agreed to make a site available in the port area of the city centre, near the imposing presidential palace, but has not given a definitive green light to the project.