New Helsinki central library opens
ALA design for ‘civic living room’ completes
A new central library for Helsinki opened on 5th December, a day before Finland marked its 101st anniversary as an independent country. Described by the authorities as the nation’s birthday gift to its citizens, the 17,250 sq m building was designed by Finnish architecture firm ALA Architects, led by Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki and Samuli Woolston.
Oodi Central Library responds to the country’s 2017 update of its public libraries act, which established a mandate for libraries to promote lifelong learning, active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression. Located opposite the Finnish Parliament, the site was chosen to symbolise the relationship between the government and the wider population. Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki said: “Library services are an investment in people. By developing our people we are preparing our society for the coming era, where knowledge, ideas and culture are the commodities that a successful city will trade with the world.”
ALA Architects devised a concept for a sinuous structure, clad in planks of Finnish spruce timber, which extends the public domain of the civic square into the enclosed public space of the library. Inside, only one-third of the space is used to hold books, but library users will have access to nearly 3.4 million items via online services and a team of book-sorting robots. The shift in priorities away from storage resulted in a space that functions as a civic “living room”, offering areas for exhibitions or community events alongside facilities such as a cinema, recording studios and a maker space. Antti Nousjoki, partner at ALA, said: “Oodi is a large public forum of thought and action operating under the library organization, but with a range of reach and functionality well beyond a traditional book depository. It is an enabler of full versed public life, thought, production and sharing in the heart of the growing Helsinki.”
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