I was recently invited to work on a group project for a contest. The challenge was to create a design for the new Guggenheim Museum to be built in Helsinki, Finland.

My friend/classmate and intermittent employer, Mark, hired me for the project. He also hired two other classmates and another architect. Everyone else works in their field at a professional skill level. The two architects, one graphic designer with many years of experience in her profession and one published writer. And then there's me. I'm highly skilled at making forts out of pillows and sofa cushions. I can make a wicked mini water park out of tarp, a blow up pool, and some old boards. Also I recently learned how to install ceiling fans! Woot woot!

Needless to say, I was little nervous. I was the wildcard brought on board. However, I take no shame in that label. In fact, I embrace it. I was mostly excited to get the old gang back together. Four of us graduated from Santa Monica College's Animation Program. We took almost every class together and got to work on group projects. This contest project was a school reunion for me.

My job was to create the outside art and displays. One of the guidelines for the museum is to connect to the city's heart and soul. Helsinki is a major port on the Gulf of Finland which opens to the Baltic Sea. Shipping containers are a major part of the scenery already. So I worked with the containers to create not only art but pieces that could display art.

These containers are very modular, easily moved and easy to convert. It's no wonder that there has been a boom of contractors using them for commercial and domestic dwellings. They are like giant legos! check out Container Atlas: A Practical Guide to Container Architecture. This book was given to me by the project manager for inspiration.

When I first started, I got the idea that the containers were going to be just structures to be viewed

As the night went on, my designs became a little more abstract. 20ft and 40ft containers laid upright.

Then I started creating things that couldn't possibly be built, not at least w/o external structural support.

This could be a children's themed exhibit to be displayed

This could be children's themed or video games. I'm sure there would be a lot of art to display from the world of video games. One 40ft, one 30ft, and eight 20ft containers make up this tribute to one of the greatest games ever created.

the walls can easily be removed and set up to display more exhibits throughout the museum's grounds

Again, as the nights went on my creations became more grand and more likely to need external structures to support them.

I've always been fascinated with giants.

I was inspired by M.C. Escher to create an "impossible object" piece. Now this one could never created. Unless there were mirrors involved.

This mash and twist up is how my brain felt on the last night, trying to make the deadline.

Most of my early content  derived from this container. At first things were simple.

I started toying with the idea of bending and twisting the containers.

I also started toying with themes and also using the structures to display art not just being art pieces.

Seven containers. Five 20ft and two 10ft for the feet.

inside a 40 ft container. The frame is left untouched but the walls and ceiling are warped to give a stylized viewing area.

This is two 20ft containers and two 40ft.

This is four 40ft containers stacked. The fames and floors kept for support. The walls are cut and turned to display art.

Underneath the main museum. The clearance is about 30 ft.

Again, giants amaze me. My brother drew a picture in high school that was seemed to appear as a small hut with dead trees in the desert. When viewed again it was actually a skull and arm half buried in the sand. I pondered on whether it was one scenario or the other. I came to the conclusion that it was both and it made even more excited about art. Almost 30 years later, that drawing still inspires me. Thanks big brother James!

AuthorGayle Childs