If you want to know how impressive a city library can be, then you need to visit Helsinki.
Designed by ALA Architects, Helsinki's Oodi Central Library is topped by a huge open-plan reading room that is covered by a scalloped roof with many circular skylights. The design for the country's leading library, which sits across from the Finnish Parliament, aims to "use technology and progressive values to provide a variety of innovative services along with a unique collection of books."
The one-of-a-kind building, which cost 98 million euros, has an area of 17,250 sq.m. and contains a relatively small collection of books - there are no more than 100 thousand of them. Most of the space is reserved for social events and workshops, a cinema, a recording studio and exhibition halls.
The architecture of the library had to match the diverse styles of various public institutions located around. In addition to the parliament building, it is also the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, the offices of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper and the Musiikktalo concert hall. It was also necessary to take into account the fact that in the future a tunnel would pass under the building.
However, the building impresses not only with its appearance, but also with the thoughtful design. So, it uses a pair of steel arches more than 100 meters long, forming a kind of bridge and supporting reinforced concrete floor slabs. This approach allows you to create open interior spaces without columns. Complex curved surfaces were created using the latest software. Local wood species, including Finnish spruce and oak, were actively used in the design of the premises.
The first floor of the library complements the area on which the building is located, due to the fact that the glass wall at the entrance creates a minimal threshold between the interior and exterior. It provides a great place for outdoor events. Also on the ground floor is a National Audiovisual Institute cinema and a restaurant whose tables are moved outside in warm weather.
The middle floor contains multifunctional spaces used as offices, studios, meetings, etc. Due to the construction of the building, many of these rooms have sometimes unusual shapes.
The top floor, with a wavy white ceiling and translucent walls that offer great views, has been dubbed "book heaven". This is where the library racks are located. This is a great place to sit quietly while enjoying reading, studying, or just contemplating. Circular skylights in the ceiling allow natural light to enter, making the environment as inviting as possible.
Maintenance and logistics facilities are located in the basement, while administrative and storage space is kept to a minimum to maximize public space.
Photo Tuomas Uusheimo.