New Definition

Central Library, Helsinki

Architects: ALA Architects
Text: Eszter Götz
Photos: Tuomas Uusheimo

The new Central Library of Helsinki (FI) occupies a hugely significant site in the city: facing the steps of the Finnish parliament building, the Eduskuntatalo across the Kansalaistori square, a public space flanked by major civic institutions. The siting of Oodi was chosen to be symbolic of the relationship between the government and the populace, and act as a reminder of the Finnish Library Act’s mandate for libraries to promote lifelong learning, active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression. It also places the new library in the heart of Helsinki’s cultural district,close to many of the capital’s great institutions. Oodi has a peaceful open-plan reading room on the upper floor that has been nicknamed “book heaven”, but books only fill one third of the space within the library. By reducing on-site storage and consulting library-users on how they access culture, the designers and librarians of Oodi have been able to introduce facilities including a café, restaurant, public balcony, movie theatre, audio-visual recording studios and a makerspace. This is representative of broader experimentation within Finnish libraries to offer new services in addition to loaning books.

Client: Helsinki
General design: ALA Architects
Architects: Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta and Samuli Woolston, Niklas Mahlberg, Jyri Eskola, Zuzana Hejtmánková, Anna Nyyssönen, Alicia Peña Gomez, Pauliina Rossi, Mikael Rupponen, Pekka Sivula, Tom Stevens, Tuulikki Tanska, Nea Tuominen and Jussi Vuori
Structure: Ramboll
HVAC: Projectus Team
Electrical engineering: Lausamo
Acoustics: Heikki Helimäki Ltd.
Geo planning: Finnmap Infra & Sipti Infra
Experts: Arup