Luca Peralta Studio shared with us their design concept for the Helsinki Central Library competition. Their ‘three cubes on a leaf’ concept is designed with the intent of creating an animated light in the distance. As a result, their project becomes an urban lantern that attracts and guides you on your journey in the direction of the city center. This light emanates from geometric objects, with a modern and minimal design, gently suspended on the landscape. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Imagine you are in the Toolonlahti Bay Park walking towards downtown Helsinki. As you pass the famous Finlandia Hall on your right, you realize that the luminous abstract structures are three white cubes, radiating light from inside through a series of cuts on their pleated skin. You notice that the cubes are floating on the ground, a ”giant leaf” that is folded to create an informal pedestal to the three iconic and sculptural “ice cubes”.
The landscape becomes architecture, it becomes porous and you feel curious to enter the spaces underneath and reach the cubes from inside. This smooth folded organic interior orients and invites you to navigate the whole building and to interact and use all the spaces both underground and on the upper levels.
The ground folds twice, once under the cubes creating the main entrance to the library and once in the direction of Toolonlahti Bay responding to the physical presence of the railway warehouse thus marking the entrance to the “Event Spaces” and allowing the park to enter the building from the North. The intriguing appearance of the oblique surface suggests unconventional outdoor uses and adds a friendly monumental character to the building. The slope becomes an outdoor urban theater embraced by the warehouse ruin that can be used for public events. The resulting terrace is a unique panoramic place, a “springboard”, a “ski jump”, diving visually into the urban landscape of Helsinki and into the unique Toolonlahti Bay Park. The elevated green roof also offers more intimate spaces usable as outdoor reading rooms.
The main lobby placed on ground floor is specifically designed with two converging entrances clearly visible from the main reception desk. The first is direct connection with a “kiss and ride” lane and bicycle route and bicycle parking along Toolonlahdenkatu street. The second one in direct connection with Makasiinipuisto park and the piazza defined and shared by the Helsinki Central Library, the Sanomatola office building, the Kiasma Museum, and the Helsinki Music Center.
From the main lobby the visitor can easily read and understand the building distribution. One can reach the upper levels of the cubes, the mezzanine levels (the “Staff facilities”, the “Library exhibition spaces”, the “Public Sauna” and the “Restaurant”) , and all the “Public Services” and “Space for External Service Providers” located at ground floor. Through a series of double height and full height spaces providing crossed visual connections, the visitor is guided to the different functions and programs. The light naturally penetrates the spaces under the “leaf” from the vertical glass walls and from a series of peculiar holes in the green roof; a specific reference to Alvar Aalto architecture adding both quality light and character to the interior space.
The entrance from the North is specifically designed to make certain functions accessible when the library is closed. It gives dedicated access to the “Book Shop” and the “Cafeteria” at ground floor, to the “Restaurant” and the “Public Sauna” at the mezzanine level, and to the “Cinema” and “Multipurpose Hall” underground.
The underground functions, the “Cinema” and the “Multipurpose Hall”, are articulated around a spectacular full height “Lobby Area”, naturally illuminated by the holes on the green roof. This space is accessible from the ground floor with two grand staircases, one in direct connection to the main entrance of the library and the other one in connection with the “Event Spaces” entrance. This vertical circulation is specifically thought to be highly visible from various point of view inside the building and to invite the users to explore the underground spaces. In addition, a group of public elevators connects directly the underground foyer with the entrance lobby and the adjacent “Café” and “Bookstore” at ground level and with the “Restaurant” and the Public Sauna” at the mezzanine level.
Three “Ice Cubes”
The “Ice Cubes “ are designed as iconic and timeless architecture. The masses are pushed South where the site becomes more urban and to define the public piazza in front. Their volumes and their heights have been carefully studied and articulated to accommodate the given program, to exploit the potential of unique panoramic views on the higher level, and to create an harmonic dialogue with the adjacent artifacts and urban landscape. The interior of the “Ice Cubes” is very flexibly designed and easily adaptable for future changes and unpredictable needs. The peculiar pleated skin consists of alternative opaque and transparent vertical stripes, oriented to invite inside the indirect natural light and to screen the excessive direct light.
The space inside the North and the South cubes are arranged around two central service core to maximize the useable area by the façade with ideal natural light. In the central cube the space is arranged around a spectacular full height void partially glazed on the top.
Architects: Luca Peralta Studio
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Design Team: Luca Peralta, Tristan Benedict, Marina Lattanzio, Salvatore Gerbino, Javier Atoche Intili, Luigi Nefasto, Daniel Romero, Eric Casciani
Engineering Consultant: ARUP