ALA Architects have just won the design competition for the new Helsinki Central Library with their entry “Käännös”. Located in the heart of Helsinki, the 16,000 square meter library building will consist almost entirely of public spaces and will offer a wide selection of services. It will serve as the new central point for the city’s impressive public library network and is slated to open in 2018. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The winning entry is based on the idea of dividing the functions of the library into three distinctive levels: an active ground floor, a calm upper floor, and an enclosed in-between volume containing the more specific functions. This concept has been developed into an arching form that invites people to utilize the spaces and services underneath, inside and on top of it.
“Käännös” grows from the dynamic between the site and the goals of the library program. The interplay between the building’s three individual floors is the key concept of the entry. The public plaza in front of the building will continue inside, merging with a catalogue of meeting and experience features. The ground floor will be a robust, busy and frequently updated space suitable for quick visits and walk-throughs. The active, zero-threshold public spaces will be visible, attractive, understandable and welcoming to all visitors.
The traditional, serene library atmosphere can be found on the top floor. This will be a calm area for contemplation, floating above the busy central Helsinki. It will offer unobstructed, majestic views to the surrounding park and cityscape. These two contrasting spaces that perfectly complement each other are created by an arching wooden volume. The spaces inside the volume will be enclosed and more intimate. The wooden volume is stretched vertically to create connections to the open main floors below and above.
Soft, curved shapes will be present all around the building. The curved ceiling covering the ground floor, the intensive flowing spaces on the middle level, as well as the curving floor surface of the top floor are all defined in the timber-clad mass, which is as functional as it is expressive. There will be three public entrance points in the building: one in the south for the main pedestrian flow from the direction of the Central Railway Station, one next to the public plaza to the west of the building shielded by an overhanging canopy, as well as a secondary one in the northeastern corner. The top floor can be reached from the southern entrance by an escalator that penetrates the wooden volume, or from the main lobby via a spiraling double-helix stair.
Each floor will be a destination in its own right and a new exciting civic space in the heart of Helsinki. While being a traditional library space, the top floor will also act as a modern, open, flexible platform for a multitude of functions. The middle floor will offer opportunities for learning-by-doing in an environment optimized for contemporary media and latest tools. It will contain workshop spaces for music and multimedia, as well as a public sauna. A multipurpose hall, a restaurant and a cinema will be located on ground floor. The library’s facilities will offer services, as well as places to meet, to discuss, and to present ideas.
The library building will be extremely energy efficient. It will be constructed using local materials and with local climate conditions in mind. Some of the main load-bearing components will be made of timber. The wooden façade will be built from pre-assembled elements finished on-site. 30 millimeter thick Finnish first grade Siberian Larch wood, shaped with a parametric 3D design and manufacturing process in order to achieve a perfect execution of the desired geometry, will be used for the cladding. The appearance of the façade will develop over the years towards a deeper, richer version of its initial hue.
The design of the façade is intrinsic to the passive design approach adopted by the project team. Detailed analysis of the façade performance informs the environmental solutions and has allowed the team to minimize any systems required, which in turn facilitates the highly flexible architectural solution.
Architects: ALA Architects
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Team: Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta and Samuli Woolston with Aleksi Niemeläinen, Jussi Vuori, Erica Österlund and Martin Genet, Vladimir Ilic, Tiina Juuti, Julius Kekoni, Pekka Sivula, Jyri Tartia
Mechanical Engineering: Arup / Paul Dunne, Susan Cormican, Luke Stewart, Mona Holtkoetter
Structural Engineering: Arup / Rory McGowan, Aidan Madden, Colm Morrin
Facade Engineering: Arup / Anthony McCauley
Technical Specialist: Arup / Paul Dunne
Scale Model: Stoltmodels / Klaus Stolt
Client: City of Helsinki
Status: In progress
Type: Competition, 1st Prize
Area: 16,000 m2
Visualizations: Vizarch.Cz / Petra Grísová, Josef Veselý, Vratislav Zíka
Photographs: Courtesy of ALA Architects