DS+R: South Harbor's Urban Port

Guggenheim Helsinki

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Guggenheim Museum will capture both the spirit and unique qualities of Helsinki as a place. It will engage with the local community and become a benchmark in Finland’s pursuit to become a carbon neutral society. But more importantly the museum will be a place where people can experience the energy and comforts of the local region.

The museum’s region specific concept is focused on harnessing both the energy of South Harbor and Helsinki’s District Heating and Cooling Infrastructure. The design strategically creates two primary energy loops, one that is adaptive and linked to the port site, and one that is controlled and linked to the district infrastructure. These two loops exchange energy through out the year depending on day, night, and season. The design uses the building envelop and public space as its medium to reduce the overall project power loads, conditioning demand, and resource waste as well as provide guests with unexpected experiences and comforts. The result is a museum design that has the potential to meet the most stringent Passive Haus energy requirements.

Three primary site specific conditions informed the sustainability approach and generated unique design responses:

1. 104 Degree winter to summer solar path variation
- Limber Light Wells

2. Sija Line’s consistent flow of people and materials
- Waste Microclimates

3. Cultural significance of water and timber
- Torrified Thermal Walls


The museum’s lightwells create daylighting equilibrium within Helsinki’s short winter and long summer days using a similar technique to limber holes in submarines. The lightwell scoop allows small amounts of direct sunlight to penetrate into an internal cast gypsum cavity to intensify daylighting levels during the winter months. The additional direct light creates a more uniform daylighting condition between the winter and summer months. The natural daylight is filtered through a pickled white glue lam waffle structure in order to provide 150-200luxs of diffused light to the gallery. Daylighting levels are constantly monitored by the building management system and when required LED lights within the gypsum lightwell cavity increase in brightness as required. The rational wood waffle grid incorporates lighting and shade tracks for art specific lighting scenarios. Over a year, the Limber Lightwells harness ~2,460 hours of daylight during museum operational hours to offset approximately 9.6 KWh/m²a of electricity demand.

The Limber Lightwells adapt when they move from the Gallery environment to the Front Yard. The roof lightwell scoop reverses its orientation to allow both winter and summer direct light into the roof cavity in order to illuminate the exterior plaza below. The internal cast gypsum component of the Gallery lightwell is substituted with a mirror that mediates the 104° delta between the winter and summer solar arch to create a light filled, comfortable experience year round.


In a partnership with Tallink Silja Line, the museum will become a catalyst in the green cruise movement and harness the energy potential within used cooking oil to help reduce its conditioning load and extend seasonal use of public outdoor spaces. Each year 5 tons of waste cooking oil from 360,000 cruise ship passengers will generate the equivalent of 1W/m2 of electricity for the museum. In addition, 5KWh/m²a of humidification a year will be co-generated to temper the climate’s dry air and meet the stringent mechanical requirements of artwork galleries.

Museum entrances utilize this waste electricity to create buffer zones that limit heat loss attributed to large visitor groups moving in and out of the building during the winter months as well as keep outdoor seating and walkways clear of ice and thermally inviting throughout the year. To further encourage pedestrian movement from the cruise terminal to South Harbor plazas and markets, heating lamps integrated into the building’s exterior facade will motion detect people walking by and provide added comfort to the individual while they are within range.


Emerging construction materials and techniques have the greatest potential to trigger positive change in the global carbon balance. The interior gallery walls are constructed with 10cm of light-weight, high conductivity carbon panels which quickly remove heat from large groups of visitors and transfer it to an internal concrete core. This core tempers sudden thermal increases within that space and adjecent zones. The internal core utilizes its mass to passively arrest thermodynamic shifts within the gallery throughout the day and over the week.

On the exterior, the museum is clad in a torrefied Finnish wood to insulate, and buffer to the touch, the extreme temperatures of summer and winter. The chemical free torrefaction process used by the wood pellet industry removes moisture and volatiles from the material creating a denser, water repellent, and rot resistant product. When combined with the 2,156,510 kg of gluelam and cross lam building structure the project contains an embodied energy of 13,178,672kWh with a net positive carbon sequestration of 780 kg per metric ton.