In their design for Helsinki Central Library, PAR | Platform for Architecture + Research and Arup re-investigate public space and its relation to the important city landmarks. Their competition proposal was inspired by Helsinki’s expansive skyline, the urban development of Töölönlahti district and the rich Finnish heritage of social openness.
Prismatic volume of the library building, conceived in careful play of stacked spaces extruded to the maximum height, offers great variety of atmospheres. Public void on the ground level mimics urban surrounding, inviting visitors in. Programmatic strips are superposed and create very narrow building, optimized for Helsinki climate conditions as well as the library program. Six floors of the building are pointing in different directions – positioned along six main axes, all levels afford thoughtfully chosen views.
Strips feature 11.5 meters deep plates which enable flexibility in collections layout and maximize diffuse natural light – of crucial importance for the ideal reading environment of the library. The broad, undulating shape of the roof rises to a total height of 31.8 meters, sloping down to the northwestern end, where the roof is 22 meters lower.
The program of this glacier-like library is flexible, due to constantly changing, almost immaterial ways of accessing and sharing knowledge. Flexibility of the interior affords necessary level of adaptability to future alternatives. Open plan zones and freestanding shelving enable spontaneous configurations of the used space.
Led by zero carbon emission objective, the design of the Library was directed by package of necessary environmental analysis, aiming to optimize sustainable performance of the building form and crystal envelope. Used passive and active strategies such as site integration, natural light autonomy, high thermal performance facade, micro turbine cogeneration, recycled materials and natural summer ventilation reflect highest level of environmental awareness.