Helsinki Central Public Library International Design Competition

As a public institution, the new Helsinki Central Library is both representative of Finnish society today, and acts as an incubator for the evolution of the culture. It is not only a place where information is consumed and digested but also a forum for the creation of cultural content. The Library is a connector and provides a point of interface between Finnish Culture and the world. It is a symbol of the richness, diversity, and dynamic nature of the country.

The mass of the building is elevated above a continuous plaza surface which extends infinitely into the fabric of the City, through the country, and beyond, thereby connecting Finland with the world. The “underbelly” of the building directly addresses the ground surface, providing a direct interface. The face of the underbelly (the inter-face) is clad entirely in a system of glass and LED light slats.

The main mass of the building has been formed through surrender to the forces at play: the presence of the Parliament Buildings, the views, the sun, and the program. The result is a sculpted form with varying percentages of clear glazing, acid etched glazing and titanium clad spandrel panels which exhibits interplay between solid and void, transparency and opacity, not unlike a block of ice as it is eroded and changed by the elements.

Part of the space created below the inter-face is enclosed program space, and some exterior public space. The boundary between these realms is transparent and meandering so as to be insubstantial. The interior spaces are very public in nature: main entrances to program above, café, exhibition, lounge, shops, and flexible performance space.

The surface becomes a programmable media screen that can be used to display static and moving images of graphics or text controlled by anyone; from a visiting school child to an artist on in another country. Treatments could range from simple fields of colour, to slowly changing visual landscapes, to collaborative art installations during an annual Artist’s Talkoot. The surface can also respond to seasonal environmental changes, or to be employed for informational and wayfinding purposes.

The inter-face provides the capacity for a continued response to the changing context of use. The “clipped” corners of the building mass enhance the vistas of the major iconic buildings around the plaza for pedestrians circulating between these buildings, the park, the train station and the library. The subtle slope on the underside also serves to enhance the long views to the surrounding urban fabric.

Entry to the library and community use areas is achieved by penetrating the interface via a series of inclined walkways, escalators, stairs, and elevators. All interior spaces on the upper levels (aside from the multipurpose space, the cinema, the cores, and the labs) are planned for maximum flexibility. Spaces are open with individual program elements demarcated by movable objects and furniture. Draperies provide the ability to change some spaces when privacy is required.

Project Details

Location: Helsinki, Findland

Budget: $100 Million

Year: 2012