Helsinki Library
Client: City of Helsinki
Status: Competition  
Size: 7000 m² / 70000 ft²
Location: Helsinki, Finland  

Assumed as a sober backdrop of more iconic institutional buildings on the site, the new Helsinki Central Public Library needs to readjust the rationality of the previous master plan to the current more essential mission of the project. Following from that, the new Helsinki Central Public Library will become not simply a discrete building that silently completes the site, but a dynamic structure that visually connects and physically consolidate the site, further intensifying the visibility and status of the existing buildings.

The new building aims to engage in a direct dialogue with the network of parks, civic buildings and architectural masterpieces already populating the site. The Kiasma Museum and The Finnish Parliament Building to the South West, the Music Hall to the West and Aalto’s Finlandia Hall to the North West as well the old train station to the south are no longer significant to the site itself but to the collective memory of Helsinki and the world at large.

The new building consists of a longitudinal bar, which promptly sits in the designated site without completely reaching its southern edge so as to open an access from Alvar Aallonkatu road, which flanks the station, and allow for future development in coordination with the underground tunnel. Three crystalline hanging volumes project outward, above the established footprint of the site.

These projecting volumes frame direct relationships with the surrounding context while creating a covered promenade to access the building. The volumes explicitly point towards three historical focal points on the site. While the projectile mass allows for direct visibility from the interior towards those buildings, it also provides the new library with the essential emblematic presence that a public building of its cultural relevance has to preserve, in order to maintain its civic significance.

While the majority of the building has a smooth surfaced facade, the underneath of the overhangs is intentionally covered with a system of self-similar primitives that aggregate in a densely packed manner. Their disposition trails the trajectory of a hyperbolic surface and as a result, articulates a dynamic and rusticated façade that fluctuates according to differing perspectives, while still maintaining the consistency and precision of a repeatable tectonic unit.

More importantly, the rustic surface induces a desire to inspect the building at close range, generating a sense of “optical tactility”, wherein the sense of sight operates just as the sense of touch. While not directly emulating the rural landscape or the uneven geography of Finland and the northern countries, the rich materiality and subtle coloration of the façade aims to make a X statement: to restore and accentuate the wisdom of regional authenticity which once made Helsinki and Finland one of the most advanced design centers of the world.

In honor of this material and naturalist spirit, some of the surfaces will be planted with a perennial hanging ivy and various moss plants. Acting as an oblique green wall, the rustic surface accentuates the natural character of the building by revealing the ever-changing features and seasonal variations of vegetation [organic matter].

Marcelo Spina
Georgina Huljich
Daniele Profeta
Matthew Kendall
Melissa Peter
Sean Lahijani

James Vincent

8746 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

+1 (323) 284 8816

P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S is a design and research architectural practice based in Los Angeles, operating globally with more than 15 years of building experience.