Reports of the library’s death are greatly exaggerated – and Helsinki’s stunning Central Library Oodi by ALA Architects is proof. Clad in warm spruce, the 17,250-square-metre facility makes a resounding statement about the civic importance of libraries by dissolving the boundaries between the public square in front of the building and the glass-walled, column-free hall on the ground level. In this way, it also announces itself as the new and ambitious central node of the Finnish capital’s public library network.
Resembling a ship at its southern end, Oodi was actually engineered as an asymmetrical inhabited bridge. It’s this bridge structure, which spans over the ground floor, that allows for the main level to be free of columns. On the middle floor, reading nooks and an open central area with stepped seating fill the spaces between the bridge’s trusses, while amenities including recording and editing studios, a communal kitchen and a fabrication lab reside in enclosed rooms. The top floor unfolds under an undulating cloud-like ceiling – sunlight bursting through its rounded openings – to give loungers a panoramic view of the city centre.
The building’s three levels of programming both support the library’s traditional purpose – as a gathering place where everyone enjoys the free perusal and borrowing of books – and provide access to more contemporary sources of information. The building envelope itself was also designed to give back: Its engineering was intrinsic to the project’s overall passive energy approach. In this way, too, Oodi is a winner: The library is a nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB).
AZ Awards category Architecture: Buildings Over 1,000 SQM Project Helsinki Central Library Oodi Location Helsinki, Finland Firm ALA Architects, Helsinki, Finland Team Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta, Samuli Woolston, Niklas Mahlberg and Heikki Ruoho with YIT, E.M. Pekkinen, Ramboll CM, Ramboll Finland, Granlund, Rejlers, Finnmap Infra & Sipti Infra, Helimaki Acoustics, Gravicon, Palotekninen insinööritoimisto Markku Kauriala, Pöyry Finland, Saircon, VIZarch and StoltModels
The library gets a jolt of energy in this brilliant project by ALA Architects, the winner in Architecture: Buildings Over 1,000 Square Metres.