In terms of both the cityscape and its symbolic significance, the proposal by WEAVA Architects + SWAN Architectes for the Helsinki Central Library will represent a modern and dynamic image of an urban public facility for the citizens of the city. Their ONYX concept forms seamlessly into the planned draft proposal of the Töölönlahti area, responding to the surrounding buildings, infrastructure and urban fabric. It is an iconic cultural landmark in its own right, but also respectful of its place as part of a greater master plan. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Located in the very centre of Helsinki, the Töölönlahti (Töölö Bay) area, the Central Library will form a cohesive totality with the Finnish Parliament building, Helsinki Music Centre, Finlandia Hall, Sanoma House and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. Their design is directly linked to the park, connecting the library to the planned pedestrian and bicycle paths. This allows easy accessibility without disrupting the existing flow of traffic. The design also utilizes the existing roads and parking facilities so the master plan remains intact.
With respect to the historic and cultural importance of the Töölönlahti area, ONYX enhances and preserves the visual connections between the significant buildings in the area through its materiality and form. A simple cut through the building preserves the sight lines from the Helsinki Music Centre to the bell tower of the Helsinki Central Railway Station, a significant way finding device and historic landmark for the city of Helsinki.
A new public plaza located in front of the entrance and immediately adjacent to the park blurs the boundary of the natural landscape continuing it onto the site of the library and bringing the public with it. A grand staircase facilitates the entrance into an elevated lobby where the public is encouraged to gather in informal spaces. This will lead the public to a greater exploration of the totality of the facility, effectively creating a sense of public space within the building and adding to the notion of the library as a center of community life.
ONYX will be a black precious stone that has the properties to both absorb and reflect its surrounding. It is able to reflect the urban fabric on the east side and at the same time to absorb the flow of visitors coming from the park on the west side. Open to the park, the Helsinki Central Library will perform the role of an urban catalyst, bringing together all sectors of the population to enjoy the building in relation to the public space and the park. An urban sculptural theme applied to the landscape of the plaza features the lyricism of the Finnish forest embedded on the rock in the main entrance animating the plaza and beckoning the public to visit.
In order to maximize the openness of the plaza as a public space within the boundary of the library’s site, the proposed scheme envisions a large cantilever that enables a continuous and unique spatial experience where public performances can be set in front of the library.
Divided into 4 levels plus the basement, the ONYX – Helsinki Central Library will operate as a versatile building where multiple programs of differing nature work at the same time.Due to the nature of the soil and the bedrock that lies just below it at this zone of the Töölönlahti (Töölö Bay) area, the scheme proposes only one level of basement. At this level the library can be connected to the planned multipurpose space that enables a greater and wider use in the future. The basement will serve mainly as a technical floor where the M.E.P., service and maintenance needs of the building will be located.
The ground floor is the podium of the library; it provides an independent entrance for the cinema and multi-purpose hall at this level so that they can be utilized independent of the library. At this level a public plaza opens onto the park along with a café and exhibition areas creating a place of interaction between the city and the building. The second floor consists of the main lobby. After taking the main staircase and escalators from the plaza it serves as the entrance hall of the library. It is a place where visitors gather, information is exchanged and the heart of lending and returning takes place. This busy space is adjacent to the Children’s World, located on the south edge of the library, where the activity and excitement continues without fear of disturbing any program spaces that require a more tranquil atmosphere.
The third floor and the forth floor are combined on the west side of the building to fulfill the library collections in a double height space with views onto the park. On the east side the “Learning and Doing” program spaces are located in a more enclosed and independent zone. In conclusion the ONYX – Helsinki Central Library will generate a new iconic public facility in the cityscape of the Töölönlahti (Töölö Bay) area. It will serve the citizens of Helsinki, not only as a practical, energy efficient and sustainable building but will also give to the city a new cultural identity.
Recognizable and remarkable, the new Helsinki Central Library will be reminiscent of a treasure chest of knowledge, where it will assuredly fulfill its role as the guardian of knowledge and culture and provide future generations with a place where learning is, before all else, sharing.
Architects: WEAVA Architects + SWAN Architectes
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Design Team: WEAVA architects: Jean-Hubert Chow, Edward Kwitek, Jamie Yengel, Cristian Herraiz; SWAN architectes: Serge Rodrigues, Ambroise Bera, Joachim Bellemin
Engineering: Man Xiaoxin, Li Zhuangzhuang
Area: 18,000 sqm