Amos Rex: the underground museum that unites Helsinki’s past and present

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© Mika Huisman

Amos Rex is a new vision of art that, installed in the underground area of Lasipalatsi Square, unites Helsinki’s past and present. The Amos Anderson Art Museum is a commitment to an underground structure designed by the Finnish studio JKMM that came up with the idea of making art the heart of the Finnish capital.

 

This museum is proof that a well-planned architectural project can generate a harmonious cohabitation with its surroundings. Precisely, one of the greatest challenges that the JKMM studio had to carry out this work was rethinking the urban park and the integration of the same into the museum experience.

 

Quite wisely, the architects of JKMM created an interesting underground structure built with large concrete domes that, resembling skylights, integrate the interior and exterior and offer a unique space from which you can also admire part of Helsinki’s history.

 

The history behind the work

What could be better than the creation of a cultural space to rescue the past and adapt it to the present? This was certainly the base plan to bring the Amos Anderson Art Museum back to life.

 

This work that places culture in the center of the Finnish capital, became a reality thanks to the land granted by the city council. However, one of the issues that the JKMM studio had to work on was the layout of the museum amid the works of great historical value that surrounded the space where it would be located.

 

However, the major dilemma was none other than finding a way to maintain the void to preserve the tangible memory of the past and at the same time create a space for exhibitions and events of cultural interest. The Solomonic solution found by this Finnish studio was to transform Lasipalatsi Square, on loan from the city council, into a huge roof and turn the basement of this space into a 6,230 m2 exhibition gallery.

 

A before and after

 

© Angel Gil

The Amos Rex has been a great gift to the city of Helsinki. Cleverly, the  JKMM studio created a symbiotic relationship between an underground cultural present and the historical events of the surface.

 

This museum, which can brag of having an entire square as its roof, has ingeniously integrated its structure with its iconic tower. The museum’s logo on the emblematic Lasipalatsi tower (which is an example of 1930s functionalism), is a nod to the past in the middle of a forecourt from which concrete domes of different shapes and sizes emerge, ending in round skylights that give the space a spatial and futuristic air.

 

Today, people who used to pass by the square to go to other places, use it as a meeting point. They stop there, lie down in the sun on its incredible artificial domes, sit down, and even play. But also, the structure encourages passersby to wander around and from time to time to peek through the domes -which are tunnels that bring natural light to the underground exhibition spaces- to look inside the museum.

 

So, Amos Rex is an example of how architectural genius can, through a square or a museum, build bridges for urban coexistence where the past and the present merge in favor of the civic vocation.

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