DVDL – a New York-based agency of innovators and strategists working at the intersection of cultural analysis and human behavior – is an international partner of the project team developing the New Museum of Architecture and Design. The agency has a long experience of working with a multitude of museums, cultural institutions and architectural projects around the world.
The cooperation between the new museum and DVDL began in spring 2022. In April, David van der Leer and Maria Budtz Sorensen of DVDL visited Helsinki to present their freshly finished forecast report on the future of cultural institutions to the steering group of the museum project and the newly appointed board of the Foundation for Finnish Museum of Architecture and Design.
We interviewed David van der Leer and Maria Budtz Sorensen of DVDL about their current views of the project phase of the new museum.
Hello! Would you please introduce yourselves and tell us briefly about your backgrounds?
– Hi! We are David and Maria of DVDL, an agency of cultural strategists in New York City. We help cultural institutions and especially museums get more people-focused.
Maria is an urban sociologist originally from Denmark and David is a former curator and non-profit leader from the Netherlands.
During the spring, DVDL has worked on the project for the New Museum of Architecture and Design. Recently you visited Helsinki. What kind of new insights did you gain regarding the city and the museum project?
– First of all, we have been so impressed with the intentional process you are collectively working through to develop this exciting new museum. The conversations with the different players during our visit have been thoughtful and open-minded.
The culture in Finland – and Helsinki as a city – can seem polished but we found pockets of surprise and quirkiness, and we think Helsinki is ready for more. For the new museum, this will translate into giving up control in some areas to allow for authenticity and elements of weirdness.
So we have a strong feeling this is going to be an interesting project and a great new institution for Helsinki and the country.
What is your current impression of the position of the new museum within the international context? Has this developed during the collaboration?
– There is so much potential! During our conversations and from our research, we have come to think of the new museum in Helsinki as a platform and facilitator for local, regional and international conversations.
We believe the museum will be the most interesting leader internationally if you work to bring change to the design field (we all know it is needed), and if you look to design to bring change to the societies we live in.
In the past, a national museum might have thought to have all the answers, but we hope you become amazing at listening to what is happening in Finland, and what is happening around the world, and from there help us all ask better questions.
DVDL has worked with several museums and cultural institutions of different types before. What kind of greetings would you like to send to the stakeholders and the public following the project?
– Be bold and enjoy the journey even though there are plenty of unknowns along the way. The museum has a ton of potential to become a true leader in the field as long as it allows itself to rethink conventional museum practices.
We believe the museum of the future is more interactive, flexible, people-focused, fun, and functional. This means different programs, exhibitions, and services, and different relationships with collections, and visitors. Allow yourselves to experiment with that and push out of perhaps stifling frameworks of perfection.
Maria Budtz Sorensen
The culture in Finland – and Helsinki as a city – can seem polished but we found pockets of surprise and quirkiness, and we think Helsinki is ready for more.
Project Director Kaarina Gould introduced David and Maria to the future location of the new museum.
Photo: Anni Koponen