At the time of the publication of this magazine, we are witnessing a historical moment. Several people have compared the cultural-political significance of the opening of Kiasma to the opening of Ateneum which took place almost exactly a hundred years ago in 1887.
Before the building project, a sequence of events which contributed to the birth of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki took place. The story dates back to the 1940s, when a registered association Contemporary Art was established in Finland, the life and soul of the association being Maire Gullichsen. Over the next decades, reports were drawn, committees were established, and the Museum of Contemporary Art association and the Porkkana association consisting of young art historians saw daylight.
Finally, the museum was established on September 1, in 1990, as a part of the Finnish National Gallery.
In its report, the Arts Council of Finland proposed the establishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1988. Council member Olli Valkonen, a representative of the Ateneum National Gallery as well as the writer of this document as the committee secretary, seized the opportunity when the state was making rearrangements concerning its art galleries: the establishment of the long-awaited museum would become a reality at last.
The project has been long and eventful. The emergence of Kiasma from the first ideas to full realisation would not have succeeded without efforts of numerous people. Many have been involved in the project, either as public officials, workers or elected officials. While some had more prominent roles, others have been working in the background. Whatever the role, everyone deserves compliments.
Now that Kiasma opens at last, I would like to thank some of these people in particular. I would especially like to thank those people whose role has been crucial to the project, either by providing emotional support or by being directly involved.
Such are (the late) professor Aarno Ruusuvuori, who contributed to the fact that the museum became a part of the Helsinki City Centre Planning Competition; and Secretary of State Teemu Hiltunen, who has been the 'patron' of the museum project; MP Erkki Tuomioja and EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, who in their then offices, Tuomioja as Deputy Mayor and Liikanen as Minister of Finance, had an impact on the initiation of the project; Lord Mayor Raimo Ilaskivi who, as Rapporteur, suggested a land barter between the City of Helsinki and the state; Development Manager Paavo Perkkiö of the City Planning Office and Development Manager Jussi Kautto of the City Office, who took part in the museum site planning; Head of Unit for Construction Antero Kivi of the Ministry of Finance, who never failed to encourage me; the jury architects Jyrki Tasa and especially Kai Wartiainen, whose emotional support has been enormous during the violent controversy about the museum and who took part in these debates himself; Senior Architect Päivi Montola, who piloted the project in the National Board of Public Building; Deputy Managing Director Veijo Rossi and M.Sc. Aimo Hämäläinen, who participated in the project bringing in their expertise and experience gained in the National Board of Public Building and Engel Ltd builder services; Senior Architect Tuulikki Terho of the Ministry of Education and City Secretary Marjatta Raunila of the Helsinki City Office, whose strong support and efforts have been crucial to the project; Deputy Mayor Pekka Korpinen who has single-mindedly worked on behalf of the museum; Head of Unit for Construction Aimo Murtomäki, who acted as Chairman for the working group on the museum establishment plan and later on as Chairman of the building project group; project leader Kari Tohmo of the Helsinki City Public Works Department and Responsible Supervisor Heimo Hantula from Seicon OY; and the construction workers who have participated throughout the project, namely Veli-Martti Lahdensuo, Juhani Ketola, Juhani Takaluoma, painter Hannu Ahonen, and the group who were in charge of boarding and casting, especially Pauli Stamblewski, who made it possible for Kiasma to finally exist also physically.
I also wish to thank all those planners whose efforts have contributed to the fact that Kiasma has been built. I wish to mention project leader Tero Aaltonen, whose difficult task involved being responsible for Kiasma's structural planning. A great number of architects both in Helsinki and in New York have been in charge of architectural planning of Kiasma. Professor Juhani Pallasmaa has been involved in the project ever since the museum competition. In his office, Project Architect Timo Kiukkola has done an enormous amount of work. Several architects in Steven Holl's office in New York have taken part in planning Kiasma over the years, and Vesa Honkonen must be mentioned since he, as a representative of Steven Holl, assumed responsibility for overseeing that the building was constructed according to Holl's ideas and purposes.
Without Steven Holl there would be no Kiasma. Although a mere building as such is not yet a museum - the museum emerges from the contents and functions of the building - we nevertheless owe Steven Holl a lot. The austere exhibition space in Kiasma provides room for art. Kiasma was envisaged on contemporary art terms, and a conscious effort has been made to achieve not only roughness and simplicity but also the feeling of the workshop - elements emblematic of contemporary art.
The role of mass media and multimedia technology as a vehicle of aesthetic experience is gaining ground all the time. The media flow, however, is beyond our control. It is a ready-made flow that prevents us, the recipients, from slowing down. Therefore we should be reminded of a different level of observation and the need to slow down in our lives. The architecture of Kiasma reminds us to do so and brings observations and feelings - the most significant elements of human life - within our reach to be interpreted through our experience and senses.