Aukio visible storage for EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art
Wanderlust was commissioned to design a visible storage to house Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation's collection and archive deposited at the EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art. The innovative museum space combines a gallery for temporary exhibitions and an open archive of the design and art objects in the collection. The project showcasing the legacy of the iconic designer-artist couple Tapio Wirkkala and Rut Bryk was completed in 2017.
In their design, the Finnish architect duo Wanderlust reinterpreted the ubiquitous white wall into a semi-transparent infrastructural surface; the “working wall” of the museum. The architecture creates a dynamic visual connection between the archive at the perimeter and a gallery for changing design exhibitions at the center.
In the modern gallery context, white walls signify a neutral backdrop for displaying art. The white cube poses an architectural contradiction: while the structure functions as a versatile and robust mounting construction, it seeks to aesthetically conceal itself, lacking any material character of its own. In the design of Aukio (Finnish for “clearing” or “square”) the objective was to rethink the instrumental vertical surface for both exhibiting and storage into one of distinct architectural quality.
Traditionally, the museum exhibition has been kept apart from the archival storage. What happens in the backstage is invisible to the front. At Aukio, this division is challenged as the exhibition and the storage are superimposed, skin on skin. The changing exhibition and the archive constantly frame and reframe one another in an interplay of temporality and permanence. The white steel structure of the archive in fact materializes the space for temporary exhibitions at the center, creating a boundary that both separates and links the two conceptual parts. The architecture thus transcends the dichotomy of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, and involves visitor movements of lingering and inquiry as part of the spatial experience.
Steel profiles and perforated sheets create a structurally strong yet visually light mounting surface for Tapio Wirkkala and Rut Bryk’s works in the archive. Referred to as the working wall, the vertical field performs as the “work desk” of the museum, making processes of curating and archiving visible. Objects of the archive as well as the temporary exhibition can be organized and reorganized in infinite ways. The architecture seeks to represent the archive as a dynamic organism and an interactive platform for producing new knowledge. Moreover, activities of conservation, digitalization and curation undertaken by EMMA as an institution are spatially integrated into the programme of Aukio. A conservation workshop and a photography studio used to document the collections bring the daily work of the museum into contact with the audience.
Storage furniture is placed at the edges of the room. Some of the shelving units are transparent and organized as glass vitrines, while others accommodate a more efficient form of archiving. The latter units correspond visually to the act of depositing items by offering initially a more mysterious, even concealed, effect. The dimly lit furniture only reveals the treasures inside on a closer look, as the perforated metal doors invite the curious to peer in to study the objects. The third mode of display and storage is the working wall that can be utilized for arranging objects in highly versatile ways, while the open rectangular exhibition space at the center accommodates practically any type of display. Thus, from the perimeter to the center of the space, a transition from the archive as a dense disorganized mass of items into an articulated curatorial position of the installed temporary exhibition takes place. Objects from the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation Collection and Archive are set in displacement across this spectrum of contextualization, directed by the work of the museum.
Aukio is a 1000 sqm extension to EMMA at WeeGee Exhibition Centre. It has been realized as a joint project of EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation and the City of Espoo, and opened to the public on November 17 2017. The working archives of ceramist Rut Bryk (1916–1999) and designer Tapio Wirkkala (1915–1985), which include unique prototypes, sketches, photographs and texts in addition to a vast collection of the two authors’ classic works, are now accessible for the first time. The programme was developed based on an international ideas competition organized in 2016, in which Wanderlust was awarded a shared 1st prize.