Amos Rex by JKMM

Designed by Finnish practice JKMM, Amos Rex – a major new art museum in Helsinki – is completed. Amos Rex continues the work of Amos Anderson Art Museum (1965-2017) that was established at the bequest of Amos Anderson (1878-1961), a highly regarded Finnish philanthropist, art collector and entrepreneur.

Located in the heart of the city, Amos Rex is sited across from the 1920s classicist Parliament building and diagonally opposite the Steven Holl designed Kiasma Museum. The entrance to Amos Rex is through Lasipalatsi (“glass palace”), a distinguished 1930s Functionalist pavilion comprising restaurants, shops, the Bio Rex cinema and an open square behind it. All the new build gallery spaces of Amos Rex, however, are underground. This radical approach to designing a 6,230 square metre building below Lasipalatsi Square was driven by the historically sensitive context of the neighbouring 19th century neo-classical barracks. The listing of the barracks was contingent on the retention of the former military parade ground – now Lasipalatsi Square – as an unbuilt open public space.

JKMM worked with the City planners to determine how Lasipalatsi Square would remain as an important civic space within Helsinki while also allowing the public to enjoy Amos Rex’s only visible new built elevation, its roofscape. The solution came in the form of highly sculptural roof lights that also address the challenge of bringing daylight into the subterranean exhibition spaces. The roof lights create a new topography, their gently rolling forms playing on the idea of an urban park in keeping with the integrity of the square.

Inside the gallery spaces, visitors looking up to the generous steel-framed concrete skylights will feel connected to the city through JKMM’s carefully considered views opening out to the street-level above. The architects have felt it especially important for visitors to experience a sense of place, to feel located in a specific part of the city even when they are six metres below ground.

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