Helsinki Central Library Competition Entry / FIRM a.d. + OKB Architecture

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The Helsinki Central Library, designed by FIRM a.d. and OKB Architecture, is a hub of knowledge, where different people, communities and constituencies can come together. With their concept of ‘Geologies of Information’, their design expresses how if libraries were like sedimentary rocks, where layers of knowledge accumulated over time, libraries of the 21st century are like igneous rock in which different mediums of knowledge and learning are fused into a granular heterogeneous whole. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Courtesy of FIRM a.d. + OKB Architecture

The library is no longer simply a repository for books and a place for reading, it has become a place for knowledge exchange, for communities to gather and for ideas and experiences to be shared. This fact is evident in the competition program. Of the 10,000 net sqm, only 25% is dedicated to book storage and reading. Helsinki’s Central Library has expanded to include places for performances, meeting, production and learning.

Courtesy of FIRM a.d. + OKB Architecture

It is fundamental that the architecture of this library be expressive of this theme of “many” coming together to create a new, dynamic whole. The Library features three principle facilities: the library collection, event spaces and “learning and doing” spaces. Each principle space is giving some autonomy within the overall organization to account for the functional demands of the program. The residual dodecahedron shaped atrium spaces create vertical lobbies that serve as both a physical and a visual conduits for people, light, and air.

Courtesy of FIRM a.d. + OKB Architecture

A three-dimensional dodecahedron aggregates allowing formal variation and standardization of its structural and cladding elements that can mediate environmental conditions by orientation. The project takes advantage of the facets to create self-shading areas for summer sun while allowing access to low winter sun. Height limitations give the project’s faces contrasting characters. To the east it is tall and smooth. The west facade steps and corrugates to address the landscape. Indentations serve as entrances.

Architects: FIRM a.d. + OKB Architecture
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Design Team: James Khamsi and Jason Kerwin
MEP: GLUMAC (Jacob Chan) with Mott MacDonald (Mark Facer & Clive Atkinson)
Sustainability: GLUMAC (Craig Briscoe)
Structural: RSE Associates (Tin Chu Wong & Greg Mercurio)

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "Helsinki Central Library Competition Entry / FIRM a.d. + OKB Architecture" 11 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>