Sculpting yet another museum

The Guggenheim Museum is a brand. It's a world-wide concept of museums. It doesn't even matter that much what is on display, it's about the brand of the museum. And a big part of the the branding exercise has to do with spectacular architecture. For instance, the Guggenheim in Bilbao is world-renowned, but that's mostly because of the spectacular building by Frank Gehry. Probably, more people know the building than the items on display. And the concept is expanding ever more, all over the globe. The latest addition is a plan for a new Guggenheim Museum in Vilnius (Lithuania).

Well, maybe calling it "a plan for a new museum is stretching the truth a bit. There has been a feasibility study for the establishment of a new museum in Vilnius, in a joint project by the Guggenheim Foundation and the Hermitage Museum. And as those things go: the organisation went for big shot, famous architects to come up with an awe-inspiring, iconic building. So they commissioned Libeskind, Fuksas and Hadid for this museum building. And the three of them came up with signature, impressive icons. Libeskind strayed from his regular "stacking boxes in a faux symbolic language", Fuksas went for a rather becoming "contemporary plastic-looking blobby animal", and Hadid... well, she just did the same as always. Organic, dynamic structures, very elegant with odd-shaped windows. I can understand why she won this competition. And I'm sure that it'll be an amazing building, if built.
But the thing is - and I never ever thought that I would say this - it's so damn safe! It's not so much a signature, it's just more of the same. Sure, it's spectacular and beautiful, but it's not that refreshing anymore. I've seen Hadid do this multiple times before. Not to mention the groups of followers and copiers who are doing lesser versions of this kind of stuff.

So, just for novelty sake, I'd rather have seen the proposal of Fuksas being built. It's slightly over the top, it's less elegant (and possibly less iconic), but it would've been a new direction. I'm not sure whether it would've been better, but any kind of experiment has the potential of failure in it. And I just applaud experiment - which the proposal by Hadid clearly isn't...

All the images are from The Architects' Journal

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