Helsinki Central Library
Architect: ARX Portugal Arquitectos
Status: Competition (2012)
Visualizer: Studio
Scale: 18.775 m2 Large
Types: Education, Library

Lifrary = Library + Life

The new Central Lifrary is not just a Library. It’s a House for the Finnish Culture.It will be part of finnish contemporary lifestyle. It’s democratic space will accept everyone, independently of their age and gender. Every visitor will play an important role, a Culture producer.The new building will be Urban and Nature integrated, built ecologically and feasible, conveying to the users these sustainable concerns.This Lifrary will feed enterprising and avant-garde finnish spirit, well-known around the World as basis of a scandinavian character.

Cityscape location

The new Central Library responds to the cityscape-wise unique location. Here the extended Toolonlahti park meets the city´s most remarkable buildings, such as the Parliament, Helsinki Central Railway Station, Kiasma Museum or Finlandia Hall. The new Central Library aims to engage this context of symbolic architectural of timeless excellence.Our proposal begins to accept local urban regulations, that frames the building envelope to an elongated rectangular polygon along Toolonlahdenkatu street, at the maximum height of 25.00m.We suggest that the building roof garden may be used as an extension of the surrounding park environment into the building.

This solution will not only qualify the views from the surrounding taller buildings, but it will work as a visitor attraction due to its panoramic views over the park and the city.More than a Library, we propose a new heart for the city life, a fusion of the park and the city life into its core, providing shelter for the long winters as it stimulates people to participate, investigate and produce Culture in a broad sense of the concept.

Symbolic and timeless architecture

If we «undress» an old building of all its «drawing orders», it will still show materials, technologies and construction methods that are specific to a certain period and that will evolve along History.“Timelessness” can be found when a building easily adopts different functions along its life, or when a particular function prevails valid over time to nowadays needs.In order to achieve such a difficult task, we propose a building that is conceptually anchored on timeless project strategies, such as free structure, clustering functional spaces, central courtyard and circulation, simple overall shape and suspended/porous volume.

In any case this will always be clearly a building of its time, through the way we build it, the materials and technologies employed. We believe that this collaborative tension between past and present, specific and universal, will establish appropriate grounds for the development of a timeless architecture. Our option for a building of a simple volume and a delicate but sophisticated presence, is a response of the surrounding context, where most buildings tend to be formally exuberant, stressing their individual presence, fighting each other. We believe that in this context a refined understated presence will create a tension that will highlight itself, as it will respond better to the ending era of major iconic buildings.

Our solution is a simple extruded volume from the plot limits, until 25,0m, lifted from the ground to allow public space to connect inside and outside.Simultaneously, we create generous outdoor covered spaces, which allow the extension of informal library activities onto the street, such as book fairs, sports, concerts, ice skiing, etc, as an attraction for the younger generations to the library.The large inside void will be the heart of the library, connecting all the floors and the rooftop, where a park extension is waiting for visitors to enjoy the view to the city and the park, while reading a book or just relaxing.

The building’s volumetric and static outer image opposes to the freedom, flexibility and fluidity through the inner space, creating a surprising effect and providing a comfortable environment for long permanence. The exterior façade will be a determining feature of the building architectural character as well as a symbol of the building ecological concern. It will be a double glazed folded skin composed by both photovoltaic panels facing south, for energy gains, and clear glass facing north, for adequate reading light, transparency and views to the park.

The inner dominant void, will be a free and fluid space, opposite to the rigid fixed outside boundary, thought as a poetic ressonance of the finnish landscape, its jagged forests and lakes.We want this void to be the library’s maximum expression: a free and intelligent expressive space, dynamic and challenging, flexible thus rigorous.These are in our view, a set of valid conceptual topics to ground a long evolving process of development of a Library for the Future in the heart of Helsinki.

Competition: Helsinki Central Library | Team: José Mateus, Nuno Mateus | Collaborator: João Dantas, Sofia Raposo, Bruno Martins, Fábio Cortês, Carlos Vadillo | Engineer: afaconsult - Porjectos de Engenharia | Views: 3.453