Amos Rex Adds Otherworldly Skylights to a Public Plaza in Helsinki

Resting on cast-in-place ring beams, the domes need no other support, enabling 2,200 square metres of column-free gallery space below.
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Resting on cast-in-place ring beams, the domes need no other support, enabling 2,200 square metres of column-free gallery space below.
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Finnish architecture practise JKMM adds sinuous domed light wells to a bold new plaza to draw daylight into Amos Rex, a below-grade art museum.

Helsinki’s newest art museum has made quite an impression on the city, but not necessarily on its skyline. All of the freshly built gallery space at Amos Rex, a reincarnation of the half-century-old Amos Anderson Art Museum, is located underground. When the trustees of the Amos Anderson decided to move to Lasipalatsi, a distinguished functionalist pavilion built in the 1930s, they inherited the adjacent listed plaza, a former military parade ground that had to remain an open public space. That meant that the architects enlisted for the reboot, Finnish practice JKMM, had few options but to situate much of the 6,230-square-metre museum below grade. A happy upshot is the resulting “roofscape,” a uniquely whimsical plaza that has become a civic hit and one of Azure‘s favourite ideas of 2018.

The reinforced concrete domes at Helsinki's Amos Rex, designed by JKMM.

Each of the plaza’s reinforced-concrete domes was cast in situ. The biggest is 9.45 metres tall and 32.4 metres in diameter.

The ring beams at Helsinki's Amos Rex, designed by JKMM.

The ring beams supporting the domes were post-tensioned in order to resist stress and mitigate cracking.

The undisputed stars of the new square are the alien-looking skylights that JKMM punched through the parade ground to bring light into the galleries below. Clad with concrete tiles, the sinuous domed light wells create a rolling topography that maintains the historic space’s integrity (and that kids love to crawl over). “By adding a bold new layer to Lasipalatsi,” says Asmo Jaaksi, a founding partner at JKMM and the project’s lead architect, “we feel we are connecting past with present.”

A steel clock tower at Helsinki's Amos Rex, designed by JKMM.

A white steel clock tower was preserved in the reconceived square. A listed site, the plaza had to stay open-air and public.

 

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This story was taken from the November/December 2018 issue of Azure. Buy a copy of the issue here, or subscribe here.

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