IN: Inspiration

Notes from Underground

Concrete domes mark the surface of Finnish art museum Amos Rex.


Amos Rex is a case study for the functional and aesthetically pleasing power of concrete. The Finnish art museum opened in Helsinki, Finland, on 30 August 2018 and thousands flocked to its opening exhibition. Despite proving popular, the new museum had to solve one particular challenge – being underneath Lasipalatsi Square.

“The biggest challenge was how to make it visible in the cityscape,” said Asmo Jaaksi, lead architect at JKMM Architects, who designed Amos Rex. “We wanted to have the square open but still draw people from above ground to underground.”

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The solution involved building an array of five concrete domes that formed viewing windows for those above ground. These domes rise out of Lasipalatsi Square and can be climbed, walked over or skateboarded upon. Not only are they unobtrusive, they also help to illuminate the art museum by offering natural light, since each has a viewing window.

The distinctive surface, according to Architectural Digest writer Nadja Sayej, is crucial writes as it draws attention to the site as an underground art museum. In order to establish the 24 000 square-foot museum, a construction team had to dig up 460 000 cubic feet of rock.

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The construction of Amos Rex cost USD$58 million (about R831 680 946) and “aims to present captivating and ambitious art refreshingly and exuberantly” says the website. “The goal will be for the past, present and future to produce unique experiences and surprising encounters beneath and above ground, and on the screen.”

The Amos Rex project launched in 2013 when Amos Anderson Art Museum wanted to expand and sought a new site for its contemporary art collection. Dim lighting made their existing office tower that was built in the 1920s, impractical for art viewing. Bio Rex, a modernist film theatre in Helsinki, was chosen as the new location but the theatre was too small and so Jaaksi proposed building the museum 20 feet under the adjacent square.

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With its multi-purpose concrete domes, Amos Rex is as much an art piece as it is a platform for art exhibitions. This new player in global concrete architecture really highlights how form can successfully meet function.  

Read more about Amos Rex:

Photography: Tuomas Uusheimo.

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