Keskustakirjasto – Helsinki Library, Finland

12.000 m2 – public library, cinema, media center, exhibition space

Open competition entry 2013
Client: Helsinki Library
Location: Helsinki, Finland


The library is one of the important and architecturally outspoken public buildings around Finlandia Park. The building is facing the park and forms a public link between the park and the city center. The library is entirely made of Finnish pinewood, putting a contemporary, down-to-earth building with a strong reference to the Finnish building tradition at the Heart of the Metropolis.

The architectural set up of the building is down-to-earth and efficient. The stacked program mass is cut into three blocks, divided by two large voids. The atriums spatially (and physically) connect all the floors to each other. They also provide the possibility of opening parts of the building to the public, after library closing hours. The atriums are maximum public and have a spectacular, timeless character. The main public programs, like the exhibition spaces, the cinema, the multi purpose hall, the restaurant, café and bookstore, are located directly at the atriums. Towards the top floor, the spaces are more and more private and quiet, with small concentration rooms and study areas.


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The library is a straight forward, outspoken building that fits effortlessly into the urban fabric because of the strategic positioning of two large atriums. One atrium forms the main entrance and is accessible from the east and west facade. The other atrium has cascading interior terraces towards the park, facing the monumental industrial heritage. This atrium runs through to the basement floor, where the future underground connection can be made.
The large atrium windows ensure a strong, open spatial relation between park and library. At the east facade a pedestrian arcade provides shelter. The arcade space runs through the main hall, blending the public flows from outside and inside The main hall is an extension of the square and connects it to the sidewalk. The library’s interior becomes a part of the public urban fabric.
Each floor has a large terrace on the north facade that looks out to Töölö Bay and the Finlandia Park. The terraces are outdoor extensions to the restaurant, the café & the sauna and special reading terraces on the library floors.

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The 6 x 6 meter grid size is ideal to accommodate the public program of the library, the work spots, meeting places, lounges etc. The generic floor can been seen as a large open space with some columns that is freely dividable into units or “rooms in a room”. The HVAC installations operate per cross section, per floor and per grid surface of 6 x 6 meter. That means that the open floor plan is ultimately flexible and it always can be divided in smaller units based on the grid. The dimensions of the ducts are very limited and placed above the ceiling. Above each window, through an integrated vent, outside air is taken in at the west façade.
The spaces within one cross section of the building are ventilated with the locally treated air. After being run through a heat exchanger the air is exhausted at the east facade, again above each window. No ducts are visible and treated air doesn’t have to be transported over long distances.

Opposite the park is the parliament building. A large square in front of the library’s main hall creates a formal central open space between the two buildings. The car-free pedestrian area provides public access to all buildings around the park.

The building is highly sustainable. Pinewood is proven to be the building material with the lowest impact on the environment. Pinewood has no CO2 emission and a relative light weight. Because of it’s local production there’s hardly any environmental impact by the transportation of the material. Also on the long run the use of pinewood has advantages. By demolition or even better disassembly there will be no waste of energy or resources. This way the building’s life cycle will follow the ‘cradle to cradle’ principle.


Competition entry 2013
Design team: Henk Bultstra, Bert Karel Deuten
Structural engineer: ABT Delft, Walter Spangenberg
Client: City of Helsinki, Finland

visuals: Nice Agency