HELSINKI CENTRAL LIBRARY
Helsinki, a city committed to finding the evolving nature of culture in an ever changing society, is the inspiration behind our team’s proposal for new Library. If a library is a container of culture with the mission of making knowledge available to the people, then Helsinki is one of the greatest libraries in the world. The new Helsinki Central Library is conceived as a reflection of its city, acting as a filter of cultural activity, and honoring the lifeblood of the Heart of Helsinki: its people. Everyone is invited into the open, flowing, and vibrant spaces which will help the Central Library act as a catalyst for social and cultural interaction.
Helsinki is a compact organism that provides a forum for human activities; it is an urban theatre of life and culture. Helsinki’s city plan displays two coexisting programmatic realities, two parallel environments of activity: Structured spaces and Flexible spaces. These two realities define each other both in concept and form. The Structured spaces provide a background in which Flexible spaces unfold. Structured spaces have a three dimensional expression, they are buildings which contain activities. Flexible spaces on the other hand take place in the interstitial spaces left between the buildings; they are the plazas and parks connected by streets and boulevards.
The Helsinki Library follows the methodology of Helsinki’s urban reality by separating the program into the same two categories, Flexible (A) and Structured (B). The Library Flexible spaces (A) cater to those functions that are more adaptable and flexible like the cafes, children’s areas and open reading environments. These spaces are column free, fluid and ultra-flexible. They are interconnected though stairs and ramps creating and fluid continuum. The Library Structured spaces (B) have been designed to accommodate the more rigid programmatic elements of the building. These areas are articulated to respond efficiently to the specific program requirements that they hold. They are specific, highly efficient and systematic in their layout.
The vibrant activity in the flexible and programmed spaces will be protected from the elements by a continuous membrane which will appear to float around and above all the program areas. The library spaces will enjoy a ubiquitous and controlled light experience displaying different degrees of transparency in response to exterior light conditions within different programmatic areas. Stimulated by variations in natural light throughout the year as well as the libraries’ own internal artificial light, the skin of the new library will allow the building’s exterior to express a rich diversity of visual readings.