June 13th, 2014 saw the inauguration of the new Contemporary Art Museum Gösta Serlachius in Mänttä, Finland, designed by MX_SI, the architecture firm based in Barcelona, winners of the international open competition in 2011, organized by the Foundation Serlachius with the support of the association of Finnish architects SAFA. 579 entries from 42 countries were received for the competition, raising its profile to that of the most popular ever in Finland.
The competition was for an extension to the Joennimei manor, a building that had not been originally conceived as a museum and was refurbished in 1983, to serve as the headquarters for the centre.
The solution provided by the architects from the MX_SI studio, Mara Partida, Boris Bezan and Hector Mendoza, has enabled the facilities to be adapted to host contemporary art travelling exhibitions while solving the problem of space due to museum ́s own growing collection. The new building is erected against a backdrop of an abstract petrified forest and is situated to form an entrance plaza alongside the historically important Joennimei manor. MX_SI collaborated with Huttunen-Lipasti-Pakkanen Architects in Helsinki as local partners for the development of the project and construction site supervision.
The new building respects what was originally there while ensuring the possibility to create its own architecture with modern language without losing its identity. The spatial richness generated by the fluid and continuous dialogue between the interior and exterior atmospheres in conjunction with the harmony of the projected volume, and how it has adapted to the landscape around its perimeter area are the values which have been transferred and made their mark on the project.
Parallel to the construction of the new building, MX_SI has been commissioned to undertake the opportunity to connect the museum, located in a park on the shores of Lake Melasjärvi, with the island of Taavetinsaari, achieving a natural increase in external exhibition space. A bridge was constructed with a simple, singular structure, keeping the formal and conceptual appearance of the initial project. An element that coexists with the integration of the works of art into the landscape, which in addition to the signage of the building, was also supervised by MX_SI architectural studio.
The Serlachius Foundation was created in 1933 with the purpose of taking care of and maintaining the art collection amassed by Gösta Serlachius (1876-1942), owner of one of the largest paper mills in Finland. Currently, the museum exhibits valuable works spanning the various periods of the Finnish art movement, from the earliest works to the prolific Golden Age, modernism and the contemporary creation. As well as the SuperPop! exhibition curated by Timo Valjakka, including American and Finnish Pop art classics.
NEW MUSEUM SERLACHIUS GÖSTA PAVILION
As a starting point, the place is understood as a large green canvas with the imposing monolithic figure of the Joenniemi Manor House at its highest point. A landscape which together with the old house comprises a heritage with cultural significance for the citizens of Mänttä and the Serlachius family. The project strategy is to establish a dialogue between the new and the existing by positioning the new construction so that Joenniemi continues to take centre stage, and at the same time the new museum does not lose the opportunity to express its character and contemporary presence. The solution was therefore to arrange the new volume parallel to the axis established between the house, the garden and the lake. An access plaza to the building was created, where the Joenniemi building continues to dominate the vistas of the area, and as the land descends and approaches the lakeside the new building becomes higher and more prominent.
The project is conceptualized as an abstract and dense forest. A forest that represents and translates into a series of parallel wooden frames that define the geometry and structure of the new building. The structural framework is constructed with laminated spruce wood as it is abundant in the area and in turn makes an historical reference about the local industry.
On the outside, the building presents a series of vertical mullions that follow and emphasize the rhythm of the interior structure. Between the mullions a ventilated facade system was designed of spruce wood strips twisted independently to the tectonic limit of the material itself, thereby achieving an effect of a three-dimensional texture that varies along the entire elevation. The facade idea also considered the effect of time on a living material like wood, so it was decided to add a semi-transparent golden hue to all its elements. During the first years the building will thus maintain a consistent image that will fade to make way for the desired silver tones that characterize this wood as it ages.
To reduce the visual impact of a building in such a sensitive environment, the building seeks to decompose into smaller fragments. The volume is interrupted by certain cuts, or irregularly shaped incisions, which are covered with a reflective glass surface. The result of these incisions is the perception of spaces of infinite mirrors; doors or forest walkways optically subdividing the building transversely.
Inside, the building is organized to continue with the path which starts from the outside. This path is crossed by a sudden and surprising invasion of light caused mainly by the incisions in the volume of the building that also offer exterior views. These invasions transform what would have been a lineal path into an emotional one, thanks to the rhythm of the constant repetition of the structural frames and interruptions that allow external spaces to penetrate inside the building.
Technically, this project represents one of the first examples of large-scale public buildings in Finland to have been built with structures, external walls and finishes in wood. Despite the strict fire regulations, it was possible to leave the structural wooden frames visible inside the entire building. It was important to avoid covering the structure to perceive the smooth texture of the material and the curved surface of the ceiling accentuated by the steady rhythm of the beams.
This structure was also designed to give greater flexibility to the interior spaces when planning future exhibitions. Supports have been left at the sides thus freeing up on building elements and releasing the central parts of the galleries, the frames have also been calculated to be able to hold pieces of large scale works of art which can even be hung from the roof beams.
As the park became part of the journey for the senses and the museum visitor experience, the project also began to take on part of the outside on a larger scale. New parkland areas were renovated and introduced , the bridge connecting the park with the island Taavetinsaari was designed and new elements of art were also positioned in the landscape , such as the sculptures by Harry Kivijärvi, works which in turn pose a new dialogue between the museum and the natural environment in which it is located.